Hy­dro on the Calder

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - LETTERS -

Be­fore about 1985 the Lan­cashire Calder, the Rib­ble’s sec­ond­largest trib­u­tary, was al­most de­void of fish; in­deed, any lo­calised thun­der­storms flush­ing the Calder would of­ten re­sult in a ma­jor pol­lu­tion of the main river. Grad­u­ally the river be­came cleaner through stricter con­trols on in­dus­try and ma­jor im­prove­ments in sewage treat­ment. In 2002 the EA stocked two Calder trib­u­taries with sal­mon fry/parr, even though they were both above nu­mer­ous im­pass­able ob­sta­cles. Around this time dead kelts were of­ten found in Sab­den Brook, which is above Whal­ley weir but be­low the im­pass­able Padi­ham weir. A few years later sal­mon were seen and caught at Padi­ham weir – prob­a­bly the prog­eny of that ear­lier stock­ing. Aware that po­ten­tially more than 100 miles of spawn­ing were be­ing de­nied to salmonids, the Rib­ble Rivers Trust, in part­ner­ship with the EA, re­moved Padi­ham weir and ini­ti­ated a pro­gramme of ob­sta­cle re­moval up­stream of Padi­ham. The trust, EA and nu­mer­ous oth­ers have since spent mil­lions of pounds on this project. In 2013/2014 a hy­dro plant was built on the weir at Whal­ley. We know with cer­tainty that prior to its con­struc­tion salmonids could ac­cess the Calder via the weir apron and smolts could also mi­grate over the apron. The hy­dro plant is just over a mile from the con­flu­ence with the Rib­ble and is the low­est, and now only ma­jor, ob­sta­cle left to mi­gra­tion in the Calder. Four years on and signs of salmonids in the Calder are hard to find; in­deed, only one smolt was found in Sab­den Brook in 2017 by the trust’s elec­tro-fish­ing sur­veys. A fish-pass was in­cor­po­rated to so-called “best prac­tice guide­lines” in the hy­dro scheme. Since its com­mis­sion, that fish-pass has never been in­spected and has prob­a­bly been blocked solid since Storm Frank in 2015. Fish-pas­sage was not rel­e­vant in the plan­ning con­sent. There is no ac­cess to this site for in­ter­ested par­ties – even the EA has to make an ap­point­ment to visit – and the lay­man is more likely to get an “all ar­eas” pass for North Korea than watch the tur­bines op­er­at­ing. The mon­i­tor­ing regime seems lax and weak and to my knowl­edge noth­ing has ever been re­ported con­trary to its per­mis­sions in four years. Com­pare this to the hy­dro at Set­tle, where with free ac­cess a myr­iad is­sues are re­ported ev­ery year. Try­ing to take a closer look at the Whal­ley scheme, I am sur­prised, to say the least, at its de­sign and sub­se­quent con­sent. The fish-pass is on the river side of the hy­dro screw, so in­ac­ces­si­ble for ei­ther cleaning or in­spec­tion. The en­trance to the tur­bine has no mesh on it and is next to the fish-pass. Both the exit from the tur­bine and the en­trance to the fish-pass are next to each other. Po­ten­tially this is the great­est act of en­vi­ron­men­tal van­dal­ism the EA has ever presided over in our catch­ment. As a fi­nal kick in the teeth, the EA is now threat­en­ing to in­clude the Calder catch­ment in the Rib­ble egg-deposition tar­get, when it might or might not have con­trib­uted di­rectly to a lack of ac­cess for both up­stream and down­stream mi­gra­tion of adults and ju­ve­niles! In sum­mary, we now have a river pos­si­bly blocked at its low­est ob­sta­cle by abysmal con­sent­ing, to­tal lack of mon­i­tor­ing, ques­tion­able de­sign and no val­i­da­tion of fish-pas­sage by the EA, while its part­ners carry on spend­ing mil­lions of pounds up­river on re­mov­ing ob­sta­cles. If that’s un­fair, EA, show me the sci­ence and prove me wrong. My com­ments are not in­tended to crit­i­cise lo­cal EA staff, or in­deed the Rib­ble Rivers Trust, for whom I have the high­est re­gard. But I believe it is still the agency’s statu­tory duty to “main­tain, de­velop and im­prove” salmonid fish­eries, and sadly on the Calder it seems to be fail­ing on all three fronts. David Jack­son, Rib­ble Fish­eries Coun­cil of Man­age­ment, and pres­i­dent and chair­man of Clitheroe An­gling As­so­ci­a­tion

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