SEPA to unveil new watercourse management registration

date01 March 2013

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is due to unveil a new registration category next week, as it discusses land drainage and watercourse management issues with farmers and landowners at a series of forums hosted by the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS).

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Starting in Inverness on Monday 4 March, before further meetings across the country, SEPA staff will be presenting the do’s and don’ts of land drainage and watercourse management and listening to the concerns any attendees may have.

SEPA staff will provide details of the newest registration which will apply to already straightened watercourses that are less than five metres wide at the base of the channel. This activity previously required a more expensive licence application, so the new registration offers a cheaper and more efficient process for farmers who want to dredge in rivers which have historically been subject to maintenance works. They will also provide examples of where neighbouring farmers have cooperated to jointly apply for a licence, thereby cutting costs and ensuring whole catchment consideration of the issue.

David Harley, Water and Land Manager at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said:

SEPA understands that land managers have faced very challenging conditions during the recent, and unusually, wet weather and will want to ensure that drainage systems work.  Field drainage is a complex issue and the condition of soils, sub-surface field drains and drainage ditches are all important and related factors.

“The dredging of burns and watercourses in the wrong place and in the wrong way can cause serious environmental harm in the stretch of river being worked. It can also result in pollution, damage to fisheries and increased flooding downstream. However, SEPA does not block all forms of dredging activity and wants to work with farmers to ensure that appropriate work can be carried out whilst minimising environmental impact.”

To clarify current requirements, update on recent changes, and hear from farmers on the issue, SEPA will be presenting at the following NFUS hosted meetings throughout Scotland:

• Monday 4th March - Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness

• Tuesday 5th March – Lochter Activity Centre, Oldmeldrum

• Tuesday 12th March – Huntingtower Hotel, near Perth

• Wednesday 13th March – Douglas Arms, Castle Douglas

• Monday 18th March – Western House Hotel, Ayr

• Tuesday 19th March – The Lodge, Carfraemill

• Monday 25th March – Ardshiel Hotel, Campbeltown

All meetings start at 7.30pm, with tea and coffee beforehand.

Ends

Notes to editor

SEPA does not require an application to authorise any of the following activities.

·    The removal of in-stream or bank-side vegetation.

·    The removal of in-stream debris/rubbish

·    The construction of new drains and ditches (where no watercourse previously existed)

·    Construction and maintenance of road drains

·    Dredging already straightened ditches less than 1metre wide, subject to good practice being followed.

Other activity, such as sediment removal from dry gravel or upstream and downstream of bridges, requires registration which can be acquired online (at a cost of £77).

Where farmers wish to dredge watercourses, which have been subject to historic maintenance and are greater than a metre wide, SEPA is introducing a new registration level category. This will apply to already straightened watercourses which are less than 5 metres wide at the base of the channel, and there will be associated good practice requirements. This activity previously required a more expensive licence application.

For extensive works in more natural rivers, a formal license may still be required. In these scenarios, SEPA wants to encourage farmers and landowners to cooperate with neighbours to apply jointly. That way the cost is shared and a catchment based management solution can be agreed. A successful example of this joint working has taken place in Dumfries, where the first catchment scale licence for sediment management has been issued for the River Ae, and discussions are underway is several other catchments around the country. SEPA’s belief is that taking this sort of co-operative approach and considering the issue at a catchment scale is the way forward.