Working in rivers that have heritage structures with a complex history of ownership and usage can be a challenge. We love it, but we do get some interesting problems sometimes! This has recently come to the fore when we noticed a partial weir collapse at Brightside in Sheffield.
Over the last 10 years DCRT and several other organisations have been helping migrating fish such as salmon back into the catchment by building fish passes – notably on weirs that aren’t in any obvious ownership owing to their complex history over hundreds of years. We call them ‘orphan’ weirs.
Because many of the weirs on the Don in particular are large structures with no owners, they don’t necessarily get maintained. As such one or two of them have not fared well over the last few years, what with the high waters and flooding.
Earlier in the year we noticed a partial collapse of Brightside Weir in Sheffield, which is a weir that has a fish pass. It also doesn’t have an owner. The rubble from the weir collapse was blocking the attraction flow of the fish pass, and with the salmon run season looming this caused a conundrum, because if no one owned the weir, no one was liable to fix the problem.
This caused many internal and external discussions, as we had to weigh up what could and should been done. Options to think about included:
- Fixing the weir if the collapse was going to affect the fish pass – fixing weirs is not something a rivers trust would naturally advocate for, but could have been an option for the greater good if necessary, if issues around future liabilities could be solved.
- Consider asking to remove part of the weir where the collapse is, or for the whole weir to be removed (making the fish pass redundant). Although, removal was considered originally and never a viable option, and is why the weir has a fish pass.
- Leave the collapse as it is and clear away the rubble to unblock the fish pass
- Do nothing
After satisfying ourselves that the fish pass itself had not been compromised as a result of the collapse, we also realised that abstraction in the area would rule out any weir removal options.
We didn’t feel a ‘do nothing’ approach was suitable in this situation either. We recently completed an important fish pass project downstream at Masborough in Rotherham. This was the last major obstacle for migrating fish on the Don, and we didn’t want 20 years of overall work to be wasted this year if we have the chance of a good run of salmon.
So, because no organisation is responsible for the problem, DCRT has decided to remove the rubble from the collapse for the sake of clearing the way for migrating fish up the fish pass, and to monitor the situation from there.
To do this we have been working with British Land to gain access over their land near Meadowhall to the weir, and in mid September our contractors will be entering the river to clear away the debris.
We hope this blog gives you an insight into our work as a Rivers Trust and charity, and our aspiration & commitment of having a sustainable population of salmon in the catchment again soon!