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Osney Lock Hydro and Fish

We have been disappointed by recent inaccurate stories in the local press regarding the impact of hydro schemes on fish, for example, a piece in last week’s Oxford Times Anglers warn over Thames hydro-plant threat to fish.’   We have felt particularly dismayed given the care we have taken to fully assess the ecological impact of our scheme and in our choice of hydro technology, and of course this information was included in our application for planning permission.

The technology we have selected for the scheme, a reverse Archimedean screw, is one suggested to us by the Environment Agency because of its fish-friendliness, having slow rotational speed and no significant shear forces or pressure changes. Independent studies by Fishtek have repeatedly demonstrated this to be the case. An independent study has also confirmed that the site for the scheme is currently impassable to all fish species, as the existing weir forms a barrier. The study concluded that the fish pass that is included in our design will, in fact, significantly improve fish migration upstream. The fish pass is being built at Osney Lock Hydro’s expense and, without the hydro, no fish pass is currently planned for this site.

As you can imagine we were heartened to receive a letter from local angler Dr Stephen Lunn, who wished to let us know that he believes the views of many anglers differ from those expressed in the article.  In his letter he highlights the many fallacies in the article, and he has kindly agreed to let us share the letter publicly. We reproduce it in full below.

To the Directors of Osney Lock Hydro
re Anglers set to fight hydro schemes (Oxford Times 9 May 2013, p1-3)

I write as an angler of some 55 years standing; as a life member of the Angling Trust; as an angling writer whose work has appeared in specialist magazines like Barbel Fisher as well as general publications such as The Guardian; as a renewable energy activist, amongst other things a founding director of Westmill Wind Farm; and as a member of a group in Wolvercote that is investigating possible sites for a community micro-hydro scheme in the Wolvercote area.

I have written to Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust, on several occasions. My views represent a wide thread of opinion amongst anglers who can see further than their own rod-tips. Angling as an activity is under threat from many directions, and thinking anglers know that they need to engage with the modern world in a constructive and forward thinking way, rather than ill-informed sabre-rattling like that of the Angling Trust in relation to micro-hydro schemes.

I would like to make a number of points in relation to the article.

1. Fish passes are good for fish welfare and the health of river systems, especially on impounded rivers like the Thames. They are long overdue throughout the river, but the only way we are going to get them is through micro-hydro schemes like that at Osney Lock, where the micro-hydro scheme is paying for fish pass construction. If anyone doubts this they should ask the Environment Agency about their plans for funding construction of fish passes.

2. The Environment Agency encourages micro-hydro developers to use Archimedes Screw turbines because they are fish-friendly. In his article, Andy Webber only reveals the depths of his ignorance and prejudice when he says that “Every angler who lives along the length of the Thames knows these micro-hydro projects kill fish”.  This is patent nonsense and blatant hypocrisy: every person who walks beside the Thames on a Sunday evening in September knows that the main source of fish kills is not cormorants, otters or hydro schemes, but fishing competitions. Anglers need to put their own fish-welfare house in order before they start lecturing others.

3. The article says that the Angling Trust “claims hydro schemes will mean the loss of weir pools”, but the micro-hydro proposals for the Thames are nothing like the “multi-million pound hydropower development on the River Trent at Sawley Weir”, which is the context in which this remark was made. Thames weir pools are not under threat from micro-hydro.

4. Many a mickle macks a muckle. Every megawatt of electricity from renewable sources helps combat global warming, the greatest challenge of our times. A typical micro-hydro scheme on the Thames will provide all the electricity needed by fifty or a hundred houses for fifty years or more, and will improve the river for fish and wildlife in its area. Such schemes repeated up and down the river will make fish migration a reality, after over 150 years of impounding; and will provide 50 years of electricity for thousands of houses. Micro-hydro schemes are a win-win for fish and for the planet.

5. Every renewable energy enthusiast I have ever met, and I have met thousands, has been an enthusiastic environmentalist. We all want to improve rivers for fish and other wildlife, and would welcome evaluation of micro-hydro schemes and development of best practice for their wildlife- and fish-friendly design and implementation. Thinking anglers are also environmentalists, and as responsible citizens will support renewable energy schemes and understand the need to engage with micro-hydro developments in a constructive and forward thinking way. They will serve the fish, the rivers and the planet best by encouraging angling clubs and the Angling Trust to engage positively in establishing and developing best practice in micro-hydro in partnership with the Environment Agency and community energy groups, rather than through confrontation and legal action.

Yours truly,

Dr Stephen Lunn

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