Catrine Community Trust/East Ayrshire Council recently submitted an application to abstract up to 4cubic meters/sec of water from the River Ayr at Catrine to supply a hydro electric power scheme. The water would be taken from the river at Catrine Weir and returned 800m downstream below the turbines.
The River Ayr is a major salmon river and also supports a range of other fish species. Ayrshire Rivers Trust had been involved in discussions with Catrine Community Trust, although not recently, and we have consistently voiced our concerns about the potential impact of the scheme on migratory fish populations in the river.
Catrine Community Trust had been advised early in discussions by SEPA that it would be sufficient to leave 0.91cubic metres/sec flowing down the river between Catrine Weir and the hydro outlet when the scheme was operating. This advice is not in line with current SEPA guidance, nor had its implications been fully thought through. A potential scenario is that there is 5 cubic metres/sec water flowing down the river (a good running water for fish like salmon) with 4 cubic metres abstracted through the hydo scheme and 800m of depleted river channel where there is a relatively low flow. At the hydro scheme outlet migratory fish will be attracted to the outlet rather than try to migrate through a long section of river with relatively low flow. This is a potentially disastrous situation. You would expect there to be guidance to protect against this sort of thing: indeed there is but the developer does not appear to have followed the guidance.
The relevant SEPA guidance can be found at http://www.sepa.org.uk/water/hydropower.aspx . Ayrshire Rivers Trust considers that the application by Catrine Community Trust is incompetent as it fails to supply the majority of the information that SEPA state must be supplied with a run-of-river hydro application. Examples are the failure to provide the power output of the scheme or the size and water velocity through smolt screens. No improvements to the problematic fish pass at the weir are proposed as part of this application.
Ayrshire Rivers Trust are fully supportive of regeneration plans for Catrine village but this cannot be at the expense of the health of the River Ayr. We have encouraged Catrine Community Trust to investigate other more modern ways of generating electricity from the river.
It is the role of the Trust to ensure that the health of the river and the fish populations it supports are protected for future generations. Ayrshire Rivers Trust is the only independent organisation in Ayrshire with the resources, knowledge and committment to ensure that hydro applications, or any other development, are assessed effectively by regulators. We have already highlighted the application shortcomings to SEPA and are awaiting further information. Only then will we be in a position to assess the full impact of the Catrine hydro proposal and to respond.
However the consultation clock is ticking and there is a 28 day consultation period for the application. Comments should be made to SEPA at email@example.com by the 27th May 2011. If anyone would like to find out more about the application, or its shortcomings please contact us.