A revised plan to improve fish passage at Powick Weir on the River Teme in Worcestershire has gained overwhelming approval from anglers.
The Angling Trust, the Save Powick Weir Group and representatives from clubs with fishing rights on the lower reaches of the Teme met with Environment Agency staff on Wednesday, November 9th, to discuss the final designs.
It followed concern about the effect on fishing after the Environment Agency announced last year they were going to fully remove the weir specifically to improve passage to upstream spawning grounds for endangered Twaite Shad as part of the wider “Unlocking The Severn” project being carried out by the Environment Agency, Canal & River Trust, Natural England and the Severn Rivers Trust.
It had been feared that full removal would have resulted in a dramatic lowering of water levels and river depths for over a mile upstream of the historic weir and many local anglers were worried about the effect this would have on fishing opportunity in the area and the knock on effect to angling clubs who control the water.
Barbel stocks in the lower and middle reaches of the river have declined quite markedly in recent years and local clubs have been losing members as anglers move to other venues to catch their favourite species.
After a lengthy consultation period where Environment Agency engineers and consultants mapped out the effects of weir removal, a new design has now been developed. To help naturalise the structure, the design involves the lowering of the weir rather than full removal, stabilising the new river bed using locally sourced rock and construction of a narrow rocky channel for fish passage at low flows. The specific inclusion of the low flow channel allows water levels upstream to be retained higher than would have been the case under the full removal scenario investigated initially.
John Cheyne, Angling Trust National Regions Manager, who has been liaising between the Environment Agency, the clubs and anglers since concerns were first raised, said:
“The new design should have less impact on water levels and river depths than a full removal and the much improved fish passage it will provide should be great news not just for the endangered shad that is at the heart of the project but also barbel, salmon and all the key fish species that have historically made the Teme such an iconic river for anglers.
“Recent studies into the Teme barbel populations have shown that there are many fish that try to move above Powick Weir to find spawning grounds further up river that are not able to get past the weir unless flow conditions are ideal. This revised scheme should provide safe passage for barbel to move up the river freely to spawn and re-populate the river that is so loved by anglers both locally and nationally.
“It is very rewarding to have had the opportunity to represent the key local angling clubs and the Save Powick Weir Group over the past year. Between us we have ensured that anglers have had a strong voice and angling interests were treated with the importance they deserve when the final decisions about this exciting project were considered.”
Paul Herickx, Project Manager from the Environment Agency, said:
“During the last 18 months we have undertaken a number of detailed assessments, walkovers and surveys of the Teme, providing us with the latest information to model the river, fine tune ideas and develop the best design solution. We found that we were able to achieve the same outcome, to assist twaite shad and other fish species to spawning grounds further upstream, by lowering a section of the weir rather than completely removing it.
“Our project team have been engaging with the interested parties throughout the course of this project and we are pleased that the final design solution is one that the angling clubs are content with. We are also grateful to the Angling Trust for their support in the early stages of the project and assistance in our discussions with the angling clubs.”
Lawrence Breakspear, who headed up the calls for changes to the original plans on behalf of the Save Powick Weir Group, was quick to take to Facebook after the meeting and was generous in his comments about the contribution made by both the Angling Trust and the Environment Agency during the process.
He wrote: “This is a great result for all concerned, my thanks go to John Cheyne of the Angling Trust and to the EA team headed up by Chris Bainger [and Alan Jones]. Thanks for everyone's support and I have one word to add: RESULT!!!”
It is expected that construction on the new fish passage will begin in late spring 2018.