Work has finally finished on the river improvement programme that has seen more than 200 river improvement projects, ranging from weir removal to habitat enhancement, in three phases over the past four years.
Today, many historic in-river structures still remain from the time of the Industrial Revolution, where watercourses were modified to provide water for industry. The barriers they created often prevented fish and other aquatic wildlife from moving up and downstream, which became detrimental to migratory species such as salmon and sea trout that need to spawn in the clean gravels found in the upper reaches of streams. This also affects eels and many coarse fish, which also need to migrate too.
The work, which included tackling long-term fisheries and environmental problems with a focus on removing barriers to fish migration, was carried out by 28 community river trusts throughout England under the stewardship of The Rivers Trust as part of the £8.3m River Improvement Fund Programme. This included 146 multi fish species barriers eased, passed or removed, 87 eel barriers eased, passed or tidal flaps installed and 88 complementary riparian habitat improvements. There are also another 44 feasibility studies for further improvement work currently being considered.
“Many migratory fish are fighting for survival as a result of their migration routes being blocked,” explained Arlin Rickard, The Rivers Trust CEO. “The Rivers Trust’s River Improvement Programme, in partnership with Defra has been an outstanding example of how government, rivers trusts and community volunteers can tackle even technically challenging obstructions and deliver massive improvements benefiting people, fish and wildlife.”