The Angling Trust has reacted angrily to the Environment Agency’s massive over-exaggeration of the amount of electricity that could be harnessed from English and Welsh Rivers and its failure to act to prevent hydropower developments damaging fragile fish stocks. The Trust is calling on its members to object to planning applications for new hydropower installations on the rivers they fish and has provided a guide to making an objection here.
The Agency recently commissioned a survey to map opportunities where run-of-river hydropower could be developed. This identified nearly 26,000 possibilities which their Consultants estimated had a “realistic” total potential of 580 MW, which is just 0.5% of the current demand for electricity. However, the Agency has chosen to promote in recent press statements the absolute maximum figure of three times this amount. Achievement of this amount would depend on using all the possible water flow at every possible site.
This is obviously both unattainable and unsustainable, and is yet another example of the Agency actively promoting an activity which will make no difference to our energy needs or to global warming, yet has the potential to result in irreparable damage to the Nation’s fish stocks, including threatened species such as salmon, sea trout and eels.
The Angling Trust has also learnt that the Environment Agency is allegedly considering issuing “gagging orders” on its staff in the Fisheries Department to stop them giving their expert advice to local councils about how to mitigate the impact of hydro-electric plants on fish and objecting when these are not acceptable. Anglers were astounded to hear that the fisheries staff paid for with rod licence fees might be told not to do their job. The Agency is a statutory consultee on planning matters.
Furthermore, in a paper to the recent Regional Fisheries, Ecology and Recreational Advisory Committees (RFERACs), the Environment Agency implied that there may be schemes that will be approved that have ‘acceptable’ impacts on fish stocks. The Angling Trust believes that allowing these to be developed would be in contravention of the Environment Agency’s statutory duty of maintaining and improving fish populations and complying with the EU’s Water Framework Directive, which makes any deterioration of ecological status (including fish stocks) illegal.
The Angling Trust will be e-mailing all its members and encouraging them to object to any hydropower development on their rivers on the grounds of insufficient information being available and that they cause danger of unsustainable damage to fish populations. This applies to at least 95% of the planned developments the Angling Trust’s technical advisers have looked at. A list of developments is available on the Agency’s website here.
The Angling Trust’s legal arm in England, Fish Legal, is investigating whether legal actions might be brought against the Environment Agency on behalf of its member riparian owners and clubs whose property rights are damaged by hydropower developments approved by the regulator.
Angling Trust Chief Executive Mark Lloyd said:
“The Environment Agency is not only overstating the value of run-of-river hydropower it is also apparently stopping its own staff advising developers and planners how to reduce the impact of these developments on fish. The Angling Trust is exasperated with the Agency’s flagrant promotion of this damaging industry which is being developed at the expense of sustainable fisheries. We call on the nation’s anglers to stand up and be counted to defend their fish and their fishing by objecting to any schemes near where they fish today. Details of how to do this are on the Angling Trust’s web site.”
Angling Trust Technical Director Dr Alan Butterworth, who recently retired after a long career with the Agency, latterly as their national expert on the impacts of hydropower on fisheries, reacted angrily to the Agency’s position:
“It is very clear that English and Welsh rivers are simply too small to make any difference to the Country’s energy needs. But the Agency continues to encourage this type of ‘run-of-river’ hydropower which can do a massive amount of damage to the ecology of our rivers and block the migration of fish.
“Much of Europe and the United States have learnt this lesson the hard way and are dismantling even much larger schemes in order to save their rivers, yet the Agency continues to spread the red carpet for hydropower developers irrespective of the risk of ruining ours. A small amount of hydropower generation is perfectly possible, but it must only be allowed where it causes no damage to our fragile fish populations 

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