Environment Agency criticised over Hydropower schemes

Hydro power TurbinesThe 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.
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.
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’”
Letter to Paul Leinster, CEO of the Environment Agency
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