Environment Agency ‘Complacent’ about Hydropower Regulation

The Angling Trust has written to the Environment Agency demanding action after it was revealed that Settle Hydro on the River Ribble has breached its licence 238 times in just 12 months, but has not faced any enforcement action from the regulator.
Volunteers from the Ribble Fisheries Consultative Association have compiled a catalogue of errors and mismanagement at the hydropower installation since it opened in January 2010 and had opposed its construction because of fears about the impact on salmon and sea trout runs on what is one of the top six rivers for migratory fish in England and Wales.

Failures with the scheme include:

  • A failure to provide a detailed environmental assessment of the impact on fisheries and other aquatic ecology, but the EA issued a licence anyway;
  • The transducer had not been correctly maintained thus leading to faulty operation.
  • Staff gauges had not been installed, as required in the plans.
  • Markers on the fish pass were not maintained.
  • Water abstracted was not recorded on a daily basis.
  • There were missing periods of data which appear to have been lost!
  • The control point for abstraction does not conform to the Detailed Project Plan.
  • Another gate to control abstraction is not watertight and therefore allows water to flow through the screw when it should be flowing through the fish pass.
  • The turbine sometimes operates for just 30 seconds, creating pulses of flow and rapid rises and fall in water levels which disrupt fish migration.
  • No data has been released, despite numerous requests, about the flow of water coming out of the turbines.  This is important because if it is too strong, it could attract fish away from the fish pass.
  • The first audit of the installation was not carried out for 17 months, but led to no enforcement action, despite numerous breaches of licence.
David Hinks, Chairman of the Ribble Fisheries Consultative Association said: " The operation of this installation is a complete shambles and the regulator should do its job and take them to court or force them to shut down and allow fish to swim through the fish pass freely again.  We are fed up of having to police this private enterprise and then when we pass on information to the authorities finding that nothing has been done. "
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said: " We have been inundated with requests for help from our members the length and breadth of the country about poorly planned and managed hydropower installations.  These turbines are doing damage to fisheries already, and many more are being licenced without proper plans being in place.  The situation is out of control and we call on the Government to stop subsidising this environmentally-damaging industry which will contribute a miniscule amount to the national electricity supply. "
The Angling Trust will shortly launch a report setting out its national concerns about the damage hydropower could do to fish and rivers without proper controls and regulation.  Settle hydro is one of the case studies in this report.
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