PROTECTING & IMPROVING THE TAY
River Ericht Abstraction
Flow is abstracted from the River Ericht at Blairgowrie via a lade system to feed a rainbow trout farm. This can cause issues, particularly in dry springs and summers, when the majority of the Ericht’s flow has previously been abstracted. The issue was particularly bad during 2018 summer drought, which took things to a head.
During such low flow conditions, there could have been impacts on juvenile salmon and ascending adults in the section of main river between the lade offtake and its return. Downstream migrating smolts could also have preferentially entered the lade and would have had to negotiate the fish farm intake further down the lade.
As of July 2019, SEPA has made changes to the licensed abstraction regime. At very low flows, the amount of water that can be abstracted from the Ericht has been reduced, which requires the fish farm to operate a partial recirculation system under those conditions. However, in an emergency situation, for example if a pump breaks down or pollution occurs upstream, a temporary increase in abstraction will be allowed, but SEPA must be informed.
However, welcome though these changes are, the Board is concerned they may not go far enough. Fortunately, therefore, it is understood SEPA may further review the licence in due course. The priority now is to obtain better information on some of the issues of potential concern, particularly smolt passage. As a result, Board staff started filming migrating smolts at the fish farm intake during spring 2019 using GoPro cameras at night. This has already produced very useful insights into how the smolts negotiate the intake screens.