A partnership project by the Environment Agency and the Frome, Piddle and West Dorset Fisheries Association to help salmon migrate up the River Frome is back on track.

The project is to construct a fish pass on a weir at Louds Mill in Dorchester. At the moment fish have extreme difficulty in leaping over the weir to reach better spawning grounds upstream. This is important for their survival in the Frome.

Work started on the project last summer, but was stopped due to the exceptionally wet weather and unexpectedly poor ground conditions on site.

Since then an alternative design for the project has been developed and the Environment Agency Board has approved funding. Construction work is now underway with the project due for completion in late summer, in time for salmon to use it as they migrate upstream.

Helping salmon over Louds Mill will enable them to reach the high quality spawning areas in this part of the Frome catchment. This could double the number of young salmon migrating to sea and then double the number of adults returning.

As salmon numbers in the Frome have declined to a level which puts the salmon stock and fishery at risk of long term damage, this project is vital to the future of the Frome salmon.

‘We are committed to increasing the salmon in the Upper Frome catchment and are delighted that this project can continue. This is the most significant single action in our Frome Salmon Action Plan and gives the best possible chance of ensuring that salmon’s numbers are at safe levels in this important river,’ said Andy Martin for the Environment Agency.

The weir is also very important in measuring river flow. The data assists the Environment Agency in their management of the River Frome and also provides a continuous flow record for the National River Flow Archive.

‘The fish pass is being constructed alongside the existing weir and is designed to maintain the gauging accuracy of the site. This is the first time we have combined a gauging weir and fish pass in this way and it will act as a field test site for this technology,’ added Andy Martin.

Frome, Piddle and West Dorset Fisheries Association chairman, Richard Slocock, said: ‘Everyone is keen to see this barrage to migrating fish on the Frome removed.  We all hope that this will result in an improved number of fish reaching the rich headwater spawning grounds and the survival of the famous salmon and sea-trout of the Frome.’

Appeal co-ordinator Charles Dutton, also from the Association, said: ‘The Association is delighted with the news. Our appeal for funds has been enthusiastically supported by a large number of people and organisations, both locally and nationally.’