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Salmon to Return Thanks to Fish Pass

large clean-up project by Gateshead Borough Council in the 1990's, but some historic contamination from the coking industry still remains below the weir.


Salmon, sea trout and eels will soon be able to swim up the River Derwent for the first time in hundreds of years when work to build a fish pass has been completed.

Funding has been secured by the Environment Agency and Gateshead Council to build a new fish pass at Derwenthaugh weir, also known as Lady’s Steps, about one mile away from where the River Derwent joins the River Tyne near the Metro Centre.

The large weir was built in the 18th century and has stopped fish from reaching spawning grounds up the Derwent ever since.

The work will also benefit species like brown trout, grayling and dace that become stranded below the weir after floods.

The fish pass will be a sloping channel built into the weir with two resting pools which provide areas for fish to rest as they go upstream. This will also help to reduce the flow of the water.

Work on the fish pass is set to start in January 2012 and should be finished by spring 2012.

Jon Shelley, project manager at the Environment Agency, said: “By building a fish pass we’ll be allowing salmon and sea trout to move freely into the River Derwent for the first time since the 18th century.

“We try to help fish along rivers wherever we can, and are always looking for ways we can increase the opportunity for affordable salmon and sea trout angling. This project will open up access to a salmon and sea trout fishery on the Tyne that everyone can enjoy.

“We’re delighted that local communities are taking a keen interest in the return of the Derwent salmon.”

Special precautions

The whole area near the weir was formerly a coke works. The site was the subject of a


precautions will be taken to prevent any pollution damaging the


A dam will also be built around the works to keep the river out and minimise the potential risks. Any water entering the working area will be treated to remove any pollution before being returned to the river.

Gateshead Council cabinet member for transport and environment Cllr John McElroy said:

“The River Derwent was once at the heart of an industrial and heavily polluted landscape, but the transformation since is nothing short of amazing. This fish pass represents the latest major improvement for wildlife in the Derwent Valley, an area now known more for its wildlife than its industrial past. I’m sure that the newly accessible upstream stretches of the Derwent will provide a fantastic home for a variety of new fish species too.”

Water framework directive

The project is partly funded by money from the Water Framework Directive.


Environment Agency receives money from the government to implement this directive, which is European legislation designed to improve and protect all waters – on the surface and underground.

The River Tyne upstream of Derwenthaugh weir currently achieves ‘moderate’ ecological status and it is hoped that by building the fish pass and encouraging more fish upstream, the river will soon be classed as ‘good’.

The Environment Agency is also currently working in partnership with Durham County Council to improve fish passage further up the River Derwent at Ebchester Weir.

It is hoped that the work will result in the Derwent boasting a healthy salmon and sea trout fishery in the near future.

Salmon and sea trout can migrate more easily up the River Taw thanks to a 'Dam Buster' operation carried out by the Environment Agency and West Country Rivers Trust.

The weir near the Dartmoor village of Belstone was a serious obstruction to fish trying to spawn on the headwaters of the

South West Water, the Duchy of Cornwall, Natural England, Dartmoor National Park Authority and the Belstone Commoners.


Dating from the 1960’s, the structure at Taw Marsh was part of an old abstraction point once used by South West Water.

Normal dismantling methods were ruled out because of the remote location and difficulty getting heavy plant and equipment to the site. The weir was also situated within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) containing rare mosses and lichens that could be easily damaged.

Before work could start the Environment Agency had to obtain the permission of

On the day of reckoning, a 250 metre exclusion zone was established around the site and specialist contractors brought in to remove the weir in a controlled explosion.

‘The operation was a success and it will now be much easier for fish to reach some pristine spawning grounds high on the Moor. We’ve previously used explosives to prepare sites prior to construction, but this was the first time we’ve used them to demolish a structure. We had to be careful we didn’t damage an old gauging station located nearby,’ said Bob Collett for the Environment Agency.

Under the European Water Framework Directive, rivers are required to meet a standard known as ‘Good

Ecological Status’. The upper Taw has been identified as falling short of this standard. The removal of the weir at Belstone is just one of several improvements to improve access for fish and help the upper Taw achieve ‘Good Ecological Status.’


Agency had earlier moved boulders from around its gauging weir at Sticklepath to create a deeper downstream pool making it easier for salmon and sea trout to migrate upstream. This work was carried out by the Agency’s Operations Delivery staff.

Plans are also underway to improve a weir that serves as a water intake for Finches Foundry in Sticklepath. In a joint project with the West Country Rivers Trust, the Agency is seeking to carry out work next spring to reduce the height of the weir to help fish reach their spawning grounds.

Nature & the Environment

Improved Rivers see Fish stocks boosted

Many rivers have suffered from poor water quality and habitat degradation in the past, but a concerted effort by the Environment Agency has helped turn these watercourses around.

The Clow Beck, that flows into the River Tees near Darlington, has recently had two fish passes constructed and 2km of habitat improvement for barbel and dace created by the Environment Agency and the Tees Rivers Trust.

6,000 barbel and 8,000 dace reared at the Environment Agency’s fish farm will be stocked into the Clow Beck and the River Skerne in Darlington and the River Wear in Durham to help restore the natural populations of fish. Dace will also be stocked in the River Gaunless. Officers will also be stocking 3,000 tench and 6000 rudd into a number of local

stillwaters. The River Don, South

Yorkshire, will also benefit from the addition of 1000 barbel, this week as part of an ongoing campiagn to bring further improvements.

The River Aire, West

Yorkshire, will soon recieve 3,000 barbel, at various locations near Keighley, Bradford and Leeds.

Rivers in the Midlands, such as the Leam, Trent and Tame have been restocked with nearly 100,000 fish.

The fish all come from the Environment Agency’s Fish farm at Calverton, in Nottinghamshire, where between 350,000 and 500,000 fish are produced to stock rivers across the country each year.

Explosives aid fish migration

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