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Old 11th January 2012, 16:16
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Default New river Derwent fish pass (River Tyne Tributary) opens river for salmon & sea trout

News from the Environment Agency:

Work to build a new fish pass on the River Derwent near Swalwell in Gateshead will start on Monday, January 16.

The fish pass in Derwent Walk Country Park will allow salmon, sea trout and eels to swim past an impassable weir which has kept spawning fish out of the river since the industrial revolution.

The fish pass will be a single channel with two 'resting pools' to allow fish using the pass to rest and regain their energy before completing their upstream journey. An eel pass will also be incorporated into the design, to allow young eels returning from their spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea to enter the Derwent.

The joint-funded partnership project between the Environment Agency and Gateshead Borough Council will also include the potential for a hydropower scheme in the future, should funds become available.

Jon Shelley, project manager for the Environment Agency, said, “We want to improve rivers for people to enjoy. The fish pass at Derwenthaugh will allow salmon, sea trout and eels to swim up the river to spawn for the first time in over 300 years.

“As well as improving the ecology of the river, this will bring affordable salmon and sea trout fishing within easy access of the residents of Newcastle and Gateshead.”

The River Derwent upstream of the weir currently achieves ‘moderate’ ecological standards under the Water Framework Directive - EU legislation governing the water quality in rivers. By enabling fish to pass upstream, the fish pass is expected to improve the river to ‘good’, which is a target of the directive.

The River Derwent is at the centre of the Derwent Walk Country Park - home to a wide variety of wildlife, including deer, otter and the famous recently re-introduced red kites.

The whole area near the weir was formerly a coke works. The site was the subject of a large clean-up project by Gateshead Borough Council in the 1990s, but some historic contamination from the coking industry still remains below the weir.

Specialist contractor, Lumsden and Carroll, has been employed to build the fish pass without harming the environment. They will start by building a dam around the section of weir to keep the river away from the historic contamination. Any water that does get inside the dam will be pumped out and treated to remove any pollution, before being returned to the river.

Gateshead Council cabinet member for transport and environment councillor John McElroy said: “The River Derwent was once at the heart of an industrial and heavily polluted landscape, but the transformation since is nothing short of amazing.

“This fish pass represents the latest major improvement in the Derwent Valley, an area now known more for its wildlife than its industrial past. I’m sure that the newly accessible upstream stretches of the Derwent will provide a fantastic home for a variety of new fish species.”

Work to build the fish pass is expected to take around 16 weeks to complete.
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