As Catrine Community Trust work towards their ambition of generating electricity from the revamped Hydro scheme that once delivered power to the Cotton mills in the village, ART staff paid the site a visit today after hearing that the Vaki Counter has been installed. As the cost of this was always an issue to CCT and funding was difficult to source, the Ayr DSFB agreed to contribute to the cost of this in return for the raw data to allow ART and the Board to assess fish migration through the dam both before and during operation of the turbines.

We expect the scheme to be commissioned within the next month or so as CCT had to have the counter in place prior to commencing hydro generation in order to comply with their CAR licence terms and conditions. This counter is essential to allow monitoring of fish passage through the ladder before and following commencement of generation. It is essential that the regulator (SEPA), CCT and the Ayrshire rivers Trust are able to assess the impact of the dam, the passibility of the fish ladder and any impact that generation may have as thousands of gallons are abstracted from the main river through the voes particularly during the peak period of salmon migration.

The data generated will allow the us and Board to see how many salmon access the upper river which can only be beneficial when determining the health, productivity and future conservation status of the River Ayr. This will contribute to evidence based management principle for the future benefit of all anglers and of course the fish stocks.

While we would far prefer to have seen the dam removed, that was never going to happen due to it’s Historic Status and designation as an ancient listed monument so perhaps the next best thing has been the overhaul of the weir and improvements to the fish pass  despite the length of time it’s taken and of course as yet we really have no data to support that the fish pass has been improved. Regardless of all the issues that arose in getting to this stage, we can hopefully look forward to an era where the salmon and trout are able and allowed to migrate freely upstream as the please. Perhaps in time as CCT start generating an income from the scheme, they will be able to contribute to further improvements on the river.

Stuart and Muir having a look at the Vaki installation at Catrine Dam.

Stuart and Muir having a look at the Vaki installation at Catrine Dam.

ART staff visited the dam today to have a look at the new counter set up. We manage another counter of this type at Loch Doon and know some of the pitfalls with operation and analysis and will offer to assist CCT should they need help with interpreting the data.