Roseanna Cunningham MSP marks the return of flow to the River Garry

date30 October 2017

Salmon now have access to the River Garry in Perthshire for the first time in over 60 years, following a landmark agreement between energy company SSE, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board (TDSFB) to allow water to flow again from one of SSE’s hydropower dams.

A ten mile stretch of the River Garry, which has been dry since the mid-1950s, is now running with water, promising major benefits for adult salmon spawning and juvenile production.

SSE, SEPA and TDSFB held an event at SSE’s Pitlochry Dam Visitor centre today (30 October 2017) to celebrate this major ecological improvement. At the event local stakeholders heard from Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, about the importance of working together to protect and improve the environment and also support renewable energy production in Scotland.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“Congratulations to those involved in the project to restore water to the River Garry which is an excellent example of successful partnership working to improve our water environment. 

 “It demonstrates how industry, public bodies and local organisations can work together to balance the delivery of environmental improvements and renewable energy production, as well as providing wider benefits to the local community and economy. This approach ties in with the Scottish Government’s commitment to maintaining and enhancing environmental standards.”

Jeremy Williamson, SSE’s Director of Renewables Operations, spoke on the day about the work to find a solution that would maximise the benefits to the environment whilst minimising the impact on SSE’s hydro operations. 

“SSE has been delighted to play our part in restoring the water flow and allowing salmon back to the upper Garry.

“As a responsible developer and operator of renewable energy we want to ensure that we balance the nation’s need for power with our environmental responsibilities. Although restoring the water in this stretch of the River Garry will result in a loss of potential hydro energy we recognise our responsibility to ensure that we manage the waters carefully where we operate our hydro assets and hope that the work to restore the River Garry will help create a sustainable population of salmon in this stretch of the river. ”

SEPA’s Chief Executive, Terry A’Hearn, said:

“We have been working with SSE, the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board and other stakeholders for a number of years to help deliver this major improvement to the ecological quality of the River Garry – while minimising any impact on electricity generation from the Tummel Hydro Scheme.

“Our work with SSE and the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board has been focused on meeting the objectives set out in Scotland’s River Basin Management Plan and today, while there is still much work to be done, we are celebrating the return of flow to this watercourse.

“This is a fantastic achievement for the ecology of this river which has historically been impacted by hydro-schemes for the last 60 – 70 years. A total length of 10 miles of river with historically little or no flow will be improved. We hope to see salmon return to the river and that the river will now support a healthy population of juvenile and adult fish.”

David Summers, Director of the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board, said:

“We are delighted that the River Garry is flowing once again and that salmon have already been seen leaping at the falls at Struan after an absence over 60 years; something once assumed would never happen again. We applaud SSE in their constructive approach to this unique project and look forward to working with them and SEPA in coming years to ensure the maximum ecological benefits are produced from the water available. We hope that this will ultimately see an extra 1500 salmon registered on the Pitlochry fish counter annually, bringing local benefits for both angling and general tourism.”

 The weir at Struan which acted as a barrier to stop fish attempting to move into the Garry was removed in December 2016 and the River Garry started flowing once again during this summer whilst SSE undertook the necessary engineering works and in the last month salmon have already been seen migrating into the ten mile stretch. SSE, SEPA and TDSFB have committed to an adaptive management plan that will see the group monitor the effects of restoring the River Garry over the next five years and ensure that the ecological goals for the River are maximised.