We are pleased to report that another weir has been successfully removed on the Swanside Brook, near Clitheroe, Lancashire. This provides restoration of natural processes and opens up 12km of river for migratory fish!
The area upstream of the weir (and the wider catchment) is important spawning for Atlantic salmon and sea trout. However, the weir was a barrier to fish and impounded flow and sediment. Restoration of these processes, and important riffle habitat has been delivered through the project. Riffles are natural features of a river bed, which create flow diversity, improve water quality (through aeration) and provide habitat for important wildlife. Monitoring will continue to document the long-term success of the scheme and provide an evidence base for future dam removal projects.
Rivers provide many important ‘ecosystem services’ (drinking water supply, food sources, aesthetic and recreational value), but need to be protected and managed with help from people in the local community. Community engagement and involvement has been key throughout the project and integral to its delivery. The central section of Smithies Weir was removed by hand; a task that would not be possible without the help a team of local volunteers, organised by the Ribble Rivers Trust – the aptly named ‘River Heroes’. Below you can watch them in action!
The total amount necessary to open up 12km of river was a cool £2000 GBP—certainly a more economical choice than the alternative. Funding for the removal was raised through a European-wide crowdfunding campaign led by Dam Removal Europe. This is just one of many crowdfunded projects that the Dam Removal Europe movement hopes to achieve in the coming months. Crowd-funding is already being progressed for the very first dam removal (ever!) in Lithuania. More details on that (including that all important donation) can be found here: https://crowdfunding.wnf.nl/project/brazuole-dam-in-lithuania.
Removal of Smithies Weir demonstrates that ‘people power’ really can achieve positive outcomes for our environment. Let it flow…
Author: Matthew Ross, Chartered geomorphologist
Photo & Video Credits: Johnny Walker, Ribble Rivers Trust