We met with SEPA today to identify priorities for restoration funding in the Irvine catchment. SEPA are required to improve all aspects of our rivers under The Water Framework Directive where they are less than good ecological status. They are actively working with land managers to reduce diffuse pollution and also provide funding for restoration projects where this will lead to long-term benefits.

The Trust has already tapped into restoration funding for several projects so far but today was about agreeing new priorities. We met on the Annick Water at Stewarton and agreed that 3 weirs should be removed to allow salmonid and other fish to migrate upstream more freely. Whilst at the Lainshaw weir we saw a salmon fail to clear the dam supporting our case.

We moved on to Darvel on the Irvine to discuss options for the notorious Dam upstream of Ranaldcoup Bridge. This is more tricky as there are arguments for and against total removal. Another option may be partial removal and a rock ramp to allow fish to pass. Again we saw salmon and trout struggling to find the way into a very poor and badly designed fish pass. Moving further downstream we visited the Newmilns weir that was removed earlier in 2012. The run and pool that has developed is looking great now and poaching opportunities have been greatly reduced.

In Newmilns we looked at two other weirs and agreed that one in particular was a problem. SEPA were keen to include both in the same application but they will need to be Sniffer assessed to determine how great an obstacle they are. We saw salmon and trout leaping here too and a few fish made it over the lower weir but only after numerous attempts.

Not quite making it.

A bigger fish this time that we eventually saw go over.

I’m reassured by todays meeting that we can make progress at these weirs. I know there may be some objections from land owners or anglers but we as a Trust have to put the ecology of the river first. SEPA are also eagre to reduce flood risk which has long been a problem in the Irvine valley.

If we can make sure that fish can reach spawning headwaters in good numbers then the trade off of the loss or partial loss of a pool is usually more then compensated by the creation of a run and increased numbers of returning adults. Weirs have a cumulative impact on migration. Taking three weirs out of a stretch of river within a short distance of each other as is proposed for the Annick Water, will undoubtedly increase the numbers of fish that make it to the best  and in some cases, unreachable spawning grounds.

Here is a short video clip of Newmilns Weir. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yloQ-vm5TZY