Weir project helps re-open UK’s longest river to protected fish species

A group of local schoolchildren have enjoyed a visit to a site where Team Van Oord is currently working on behalf of the Environment Agency, as part of a project designed to re-open the UK’s longest river to all fish species.

The works at Powick Weir on the River Teme near Worcester form part of the wider £22m ‘Unlocking the River Severn’ project, led by the Canal & River Trust in partnership with the Environment Agency, Severn Rivers Trust and Natural England.

Unlocking the Severn is the largest project of its kind ever attempted in Europe. In addition to re-opening the river to fish species, the project is also setting out to ‘reconnect millions of people and local communities with the Severn’s lost natural, cultural and industrial heritage’.

The project aims to address the physical barriers and secure the long term future of many of the UK’s declining and protected fish species, particularly historically economically vital species such as the now threatened twaite and allis shad*, by substantially increasing access to 253 kilometres of historic spawning grounds that the fish require to complete their complex life cycles.

The project will also benefit other critically declining species such as salmon and the European eel.

The works being carried out at Powick – by Kier, working as part of Team Van Oord – involve partially removing the weir by lowering the central sections, with the left bank abutment remaining for historical, hydraulic and environmental reasons.

The existing salmon fish pass is being removed and public safety improved by placing locally sourced rock from the remaining concrete abutment at a gentle slope towards the centre of the river, removing the existing height between the abutment and the water.

When complete, there will be a naturalised rocky bed with a low flow channel to ensure a section of water is at the right depth and velocity to best assist the shad’s migration upstream.

On 19 October, the project welcomed 60 children from two local schools – a visit which has been described as a ‘huge success’.

The pupils discussed the construction, archaeology and goals of the scheme with a number of team members.

Alice Fallon, Education Officer for the Severn Rivers Trust, said:

“The children had a brilliant time, and it meant a lot to them to be able to spend a morning outdoors and experience being by the river.

“They also get a great deal from talking to a range of different adults – this really expands their horizons and gets them thinking about their own futures.”

Mike Morris, chief executive of the Severn Rivers Trust, echoed Alice Fallon’s comments, saying:

“Thank you all for working to make this happen. It really is an important part of the project.”

During the Spring 2019 term, the pupils will return to the site for a series of arts workshops which will culminate in a big celebration to enable the schools to welcome the shad back to the River Teme.

The Twaite and Allis shad are members of the herring family and enter freshwater only to spawn. Due to the rarity of this species, the shad (Alosa fallax) is subject to substantial legal protection.

6 November 2018