Hydroelectric Schemes Damaging Local Rivers

Local anglers and others farther afield, have been vehemently protesting at damage to local rivers by hydroelectric schemes. The schemes are being promoted by the NI Environment Agency to meet Government targets on renewable energy, but anglers say not enough protection is being given to the rivers.

There is insufficient protection by The DOENI Planning Service and NI Environment Agency for fisheries in hydroelectric scheme proposals.

Even if most of the possible hydroelectric sites available are developed, hydro electricity will probably contribute less than 1 % of our electricity needs, so why are our precious salmon and trout rivers being sacrificed?

The Loughs Agency and anglers in the Ulster Angling Federation have been trying to give some degree of protection to the rivers, but The DOENI Planning Service choose to ignore their submissions and instead follow the NI Environment Agency , which has now become the “Industrial Development Board” for hydroelectricity, with insufficient protection for rivers.

At a time when salmon runs are under great pressure, it is madness to be erecting new concrete dams across our rivers, and taking most of the water out of the river, leading to considerable stretches of river with little flow left. Typically NIEA allow up to 70 % of the water to be taken out of the river, and in some cases up to 90%. This leaves considerable lengths of stream with a greatly reduced flow which is harmful to fish, and their annual migrations.

DOENI Planning Policy Statement 18 “Renewable Energy” states
in Clause 3.2;

“The objectives of the Statement are:

to ensure that the environmental, landscape, visual and amenity impacts associated with or arising from renewable energy development are adequately addressed;

to ensure adequate protection of the Region’s built and natural, and cultural heritage features;...”  

Anglers believe that the environmental and amenity impacts of the hydroelectricity applications have not been adequately examined and The DOENI Planning Service and NI Environment Agency are allowing our rivers to be damaged, and the salmon and trout stocks threatened. 

There is little point in trying to reduce carbon emissions, if in doing so our natural environment and heritage is damaged in the process.

Hydroelectric scheme developed by Omagh District Council on the River Camowen
Picture 1 shows how a hydroelectric scheme developed by Omagh District Council on the River Camowen in Omagh recently left the river deprived of any flow; Local people were alerted when flocks of birds were seen taking fish form the affected water. This happened just as the crucial smolt run was to commence when juvenile salmon and sea trout make their way downriver to go to sea for the first time. Damage to the river is currently being assessed.

 

Picture 2 shows the typical result of problems at another hydroelectric scheme, this time in the Roe Valley area – the picture shows a dead smolt collected at the scene.
Picture 2 shows the typical result of problems at another hydroelectric scheme, this time in the Roe Valley area – the picture shows a dead smolt collected at the scene. This time the problems arose during the crucial smolt run.

 

Anglers are calling for the DOENI Planning Service and NI Environment Agency to give the salmon and trout reasonable protection from the threat posed by these hydroelectric schemes. Where is the justification for these schemes when the environmental damage caused far outweighs the miniscule return in electricity generated?