National Highways to help fish swim upstream to spawning grounds

By Ginny Ware   |   Totnes Reporter   |
Sunday 5th June 2022 10:00 am
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The River Ashburn (. )

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National Highways are making a major investment to improve the movement of fish alongside the A38 near Buckfastleigh.

Westcountry Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency have identified an issue whereby fish -including salmon and eels – are unable to move upstream due to the four stepped weirs close to the A38 eastbound entry slip road at Buckfastleigh.

As a result, National Highways, the company responsible for England’s major A roads and motorways, is investing £450,000 from its Environment and Wellbeing Fund to adapt the weirs to enable fish to navigate their way upstream to their traditional spawning grounds.

Tina Barrington, National Highways’ environment funding manager, said: “Our work goes beyond operating, maintaining and improving roads, and through our Environmental and Wellbeing Fund we’re investing in the environment and communities surrounding our network.

“We’re delighted to be able to support such a worthwhile project which will help to support aquatic biodiversity close to the A38 - a glowing example of how this funding and partnership working can make life better for communities, wildlife and the environment around our roads.

“The investment underlines our commitment to reducing the impact of our roads on the environment – in this case by modifying a structure originally provided during the construction of the road.”

The scheme, designed by Kier, is to be delivered by idverde UK in conjunction with the Westcountry Rivers Trust, Castleford Engineering and Totnes-based Fishtek Consulting.

The scheme is due to start on Monday June 6 and be completed by October in time for the start of the spawning season.

The area around the weirs is an environmentally significant location, sitting within the National Park.

The verges around the A38 eastbound entry slip road at Dart Bridge contain species rich grassland of county-wide importance, and are also home to rare orchids.

As the location also sits within a bat conservation area, no overnight work will be taking place to avoid disturbing bat activity.

The programme will require daytime closures of the A38 entry slip road on weekdays, with a short local diversion route in place to allow National Highways to manage construction and help teams protect the natural habitat.

These closures will be lifted at weekends.

Olivia Cresswell, aquatic services manager at Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT), said: “We are excited these four fish and eel passes, which are located at the entrance to the River Ashburn are to be created.

“Fish survey records from the Environment Agency suggest that salmon have been restricted from most of this river since 1999, making this a much-needed construction to improve access to important salmon, trout and eel habitat.

“WRT will be providing fisheries expertise and support during the construction phase of the scheme.”

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