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Saturday, March 2, 2013

River's future discussed at meeting

* The River Dee in Llangollen.

The future of the River Dee over the next 20-30 years was discussed at a meeting in Llangollen’s Wild Pheasant Hotel on Thursday.

Four bodies – the Environment Agency, Environment Agency Wales, Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales – jointly commissioned specialist contractors Jacobs to carry out a major ecological study taking in over 50 kilometres of the Dee, along with some of its tributaries such as the River Ceiriog, from Bala to Chester Weir.
The study was based on information from previous surveys and also included the results of new inspections which took place late last year.
The aim was to record the physical conditions of the rivers  and habitats along them to give an understanding of their physical processes and identify potential restoration actions.
Data from the survey was used to compile technical and management reports and it was these that were highlighted at a consultation workshop for a range of interested individuals and groups at the Wild Pheasant by members of the survey team.
The reports reveal that in places the physical form of the rivers have been altered by weirs, flood embankments, bank protection and straightening - all of which can reduce habitat quality, quantity and variety and affect the movement of fish, water and sediment.
No specific restoration actions were put forward, although a range of options was outlined by Dr Andrew Brookes (pictured right) from Jacobs.
He explained that the waterways put under the microscope included two separate Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), one in Wales and one downstream in England, which provided habitats for species such as Atlantic salmon, lamprey, otter and club-tailed dragonfly.
He said that when it came to the physical condition of the rivers there was “a lot of room for improvement” with only 28 per cent of surface waters in the Dee catchment area being classified as ‘good’ or ‘high’ ecological standard and the majority of bodies of water having been heavily modified over the years.
Dr Brookes added: “There are challenges and not a lot of money available.”
But he stressed: “There are sources of funding and we are talking about a long-term strategy with a time frame of 20 to 30 years.”
He then answered a number of technical points put to him by members of the audience.   
Consultations on the reports will continue amongst interested parties, including landowners, fishing clubs, river and wildlife trusts.
Comments made by them will then be considered and amendments made to the final restoration plan before it is published at the end of March. 

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