Following a year-long consultation with angling and fisheries interests and
the hydropower industry about new good practice guidelines for hydropower
developments, the Environment Agency Board has decided to launch yet another
consultation into the volume of water which the industry is permitted to
take out of rivers.
Angling bodies and fisheries conservation charities reacted with despair, as
the guidelines which are currently being applied allow far too much water to
be diverted into turbines, leaving many stretches of river suffering from
low flows which have major impacts on fish, invertebrates and the whole
river food chain.
Damaging developments continue to be approved while this
impasse continues.
The Angling Trust and the Salmon & Trout Association
have met with the Agency and hydropower developers about 30 times in the
past 12 months to discuss revision of the guidelines, laying particular
emphasis on the requirement for sufficient flow to be left in the main river
to protect all fish species and their habitat. We were expecting a new
version in the next few weeks, especially as publication has already been
delayed by several months.
A coalition of angling and fisheries bodies today called on the Environment
Agency to put a halt to any new hydropower developments until the new
guidelines are approved. They believe that the current guidelines are not
fit for purpose and that to allow further developments without greater
protections being in place would be irresponsible as hydropower
installations will be in place for decades.
A spokesman for the coalition said: we have committed to weeks of meetings
over the past year to provide our input to the Hydropower Review Group. It
is utterly frustrating that the Environment Agency has chosen to sit on the
fence between protecting river flows and allowing the spread of turbines
throughout our river network. No further developments should be approved
until proper guidelines are put in place to protect wildlife, including fish
stocks which support the employment of 37,000 people in the angling
industry.
Government statistics state that run of river hydropower could generate an
absolute maximum of 0.5% of electricity needs in England and Wales, but this
would not be achieved because not all sites are viable. A more likely
figure is around 0.1 0.2%.