The Environment Agency has come in for severe criticism this week for failing to uphold its duties to ‘to maintain, improve and develop fisheries’ and to ‘consider and give due weight to fisheries’ when granting impoundment licences associated with hydropower schemes. The Angling Trust and fisheries conservation charities have joined forces to write a strongly-worded letter to Paul Leinster, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency highlighting his organisation’s shambolic regulation of hydropower and demanding immediate action.
The recent successful action by Fish Legal on behalf of the Pride of Derby Angling Club at Sawley weir to halt the damaging hydropower scheme on the river Trent was seriously hindered by the actions of the EA who granted an impoundment licence to the developers without any regard to the impact on the fishery. The developers were granted a permit by the Agency which allowed them to kill up to 10 adult salmon and 100 coarse fish in a 24 hour period without fear of enforcement action. By granting this licence the Agency also gave a private company a statutory defence to any civil claims against it for damaging the fishery caused by changing water levels and flow rates.
The Angling Trust, supported by the Salmon & Trout Association and the Atlantic Salmon Trust have written to Paul Leinster to demand immediate action to protect rivers and fish stocks from hydropower developments. Representatives of these organisations will meet with Mr. Leinster in January to discuss these points and to highlight the concerns of anglers and fishery owners.
Angling Trust and Fish Legal Chief Executive Mark Lloyd said:
“This minimal level of attention is utterly inadequate from a public body which has a statutory duty to maintain, improve and develop fisheries and the Judge’s decision that the fishing rights would be significantly harmed demonstrates the EA’s failure in this regard.
What’s more, by granting the licence, the EA made it much harder for Fish Legal to fight its civil legal action to stop the Sawley development going ahead. We still won the case but no thanks to the Environment Agency whose handling of hydropower applications is nothing short of an ‘omnishambles’”
Notes to Editors
1. A report commissioned by an independent expert as long ago as August of 2009 said that the Good Practice Guidelines for hydropower developers were not fit for purpose. The Environment Agency has still, more than three years later, failed to update these guidelines and will not do so for at least another year. The letter demands an acceleration of this process and a retraction of statements made by the EA’s Head of Climate Change who implied that this completely unacceptable delay might in some way have been caused by the angling and fisheries organisations themselves.
2. The Environment Agency has failed to consider properly angling and fisheries interests when granting impoundment licences for hydropower. At Sawley Weir, the regulator’s consideration of the impact on angling of a huge industrial hydropower development on a weir pool where an angling club owns freehold fishing rights was limited to the following sentence: “Part of Pride of Derby’s fishery lies within the weir pool affected i.e. increased periods of reduced flow during operation of the turbine”. The letter from the Angling Trust and fisheries charities demands that Mr. Leinster instructs his permitting centres to consult in every instance with regional fisheries officers and to confer with riparian owners and fishing clubs who may own or lease waters in the area in order to ascertain how the development might affect their fishing.
3. Plans for hydropower schemes are now being developed on weirs on two of the three rivers which are used for salmon indexing in England and Wales: the Lune and the Dee. If allowed to proceed, these schemes would pose a serious threat to the long term continuity of this data, and so could jeopardise the Agency’s ability to manage salmon stocks in England and Wales and meet the UK’s obligations to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO). The letter asks for Mr. Leinster’s assurance that the Agency will not be issuing licences to schemes at these counter sites and that it will write to the promoters and developers explaining why not so that no further public money will be wasted on developing and promoting these plans.Letter to Paul Leinster, CEO of the Environment Agency