Environment minister views pioneering river restoration project in the Cairngorms National Park

date29 April 2013

Issued by the Cairngorms National Park Authority

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The Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse has been visiting Carr-Bridge in the Cairngorms National Park this morning (Monday 29 April) to view ‘shovel ready’ projects including a pioneering river restoration project, instigated by the Spey Catchment Initiative, which will help to restore valuable riparian habitat and contribute to flood alleviation downstream.

Mr Wheelhouse was shown the work that has been done to restore the Allt Lorgy which joins the River Dulnain, a tributary of the Spey. The river had been straightened in the past, mainly for agricultural purposes, but this resulted in degraded salmon spawning habitat and affected the way the water flows downstream, especially at times of high flow.

Now, with funding from the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), the Scottish Government, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Woodlands Trust Scotland and the Spey Fishery Board, work has been undertaken to restore the river to a more natural state.

To date, similar projects have provided a heavily engineered restored solution. What makes Allt Lorgy unique is that ground works have simply kick started a process whereby the river will now do its own work to re-establish its natural equilibrium. Artificial embankments have been lowered and in stream boulders have been removed and replaced with fallen trees or large branches – woody debris is a natural component of a river bringing many benefits including protection of river banks from excessive erosion and providing shelter and food for a wide range of fish and invertebrate species. In time, all of this work will improve habitats, creating a more diverse ecological environment.

The project also involves deer fencing of the site to help with the regeneration of riparian woodlands, which is being supplemented with the planting of an additional 4,800 native species which P6& P7 pupils from Carr-Bridge Primary School got to work on today – with a bit of help from the Minister!

Commenting on the project Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said:

This project at Allt Lorgy will allow the river to restore natural habitats, creating a diverse environment and benefitting a range of species. It will also reduce flooding – a problem which has wiped out salmon spawning habitat over the years – helping the angling industry around the Park.

“Scotland’s National Parks are not only vital to the protection of our habits, but also to the rural economy. In this Year of Natural Scotland, where better than the Parks to experience our stunning natural heritage and the investment in shovel ready projects will further improve visitor and community facilities, support green tourism, and attract more visitors to them in the future.

“As someone who has had several holidays in Carr-Bridge I greatly enjoyed helping the pupils of Carr-Bridge Primary plant trees and I hope to return in the future to see how their hard work helps restore local habitats.”

The Convener of the CNPA Board Duncan Bryden said:

Shovel ready money from the Scottish Government is certainly making a difference to the Park. In all of the projects we have looked at today local contractors have been used helping to grow the local economy. The Allt Lorgy restoration is a really interesting project environmentally but also economically when you consider what the angling industry is worth to the Park and indeed well beyond the Park boundary. The Cairngorms National Park Authority is 10 years old this year and its these types of projects we’ll be talking about in the next decade."

Spey Fishery Board Director Roger Knight said,

This innovative project will help restore the natural river processes that have hitherto been impeded by mankind. It will also provide additional habitat for spring salmon which spawn in the upper tributaries of the Spey and have been threatened by man’s interference with our river systems. We look forward to replicating this important work elsewhere in the Spey catchment.”

David Harley, Water and Land Manager at SEPA, said:

“With support from the Water Environment Fund, SEPA has worked closely with its partners in the Spey Catchment Initiative to deliver the Allt Lorgy Project. From initial concept and design through to actual delivery, the project has been a great demonstration of partnership working and an example of how to tackle pressures on rural highland rivers through low cost, sustainable measures.

“The project worked with the river, using locally sourced wood and gravels to reinstate natural features, improving the river for fish and other ecology. We will continue to monitor progress on the Allt Lorgy and are keen to support any other similar initiatives across Scotland.”

Woodlands Trust Carol Evans, Director of the Woodland Trust Scotland said:

Native woods and trees offer a wide range of benefits. There is increasing recognition of the positive effect that planting well designed riparian woodland can have both on numbers of young fish, and helping to alleviate flooding. We’re delighted to have been involved in this pioneering project, which should provide an inspiration for other fishery boards across Scotland who are looking for ways to improve the condition of their spawning habitats.”

As part of his visit, Mr Wheelhouse also saw the works that are underway to create a bike skills park in the centre of the village. Shovel ready funding for this project has meant the community –through the local development company, Carr-bridge Ahead –can  offer local young people of all ages a fun, local facility to help increase their bike confidence and skills. He also took a walk through the village woodlands to see where money has gone into upgrading footpaths, in particular a core path that was in a condition that restricted the number if people that could enjoy it. The cemetery path is now much more accessible and is being enjoyed by far more people such as cyclists, mums with pushchairs and those less able.

Ends

Notes to newsdesks

1. Colour photographs showing the Minister planting trees with local schoolchildren and other elements of his visit this morning are available free to accompany this press release. Please contact Angus Findlay on tel: 01738 861059 / mob: 07806 570277. Photographs will be available after 2pm.

2. The £13,000 scoping study for the Allt Lorgy project was jointly funded by the CNPA and the SEPA Water Environment Fund. The ground works were supported by £21,475 from the Scottish Government’s ‘shovel ready’ funds; SEPA’s Water Environment Fund provided £10,000; £5,000 from Woodland Trust Scotland and £8,025 from the Spey Fishery Board.

3. The Cairngorms National Park was established in 2003.  It is the UK’s largest national park at 4,528sq km The Park has four aims: to conserve and enhance the area’s natural and cultural heritage: promote sustainable use of the Park’s natural resources; promoting understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Park (including recreation); and to promote sustainable economic and social development of local communities.

4. The CNPA was set up to ensure that the unique aspects of the Cairngorms – both the natural environment and the local communities – are cared for, sustained and enhanced for current and future generations to enjoy.  The CNPA provides leadership  to all those involved in the Cairngorms and works in partnership with a range of communities, businesses, non government organisations and public sector partners to deliver practical solutions on the ground.

5. The Spey Catchment Initiative is a partnership project supported by the CNPA, SNH, SEPA, FCS, Spey Fishery Board and the local councils. Its remit is to undertake activities that protect and enhance the water quality and natural heritage within the River Spey catchment and raise awareness of associated issues such as the benefits of riparian woodland and natural flood management techniques.

For more information on the Water Environment Fund please visit the SEPA website or email restoration.proposals@sepa.org.uk or julie.tuck@sepa.org.uk.