Fish passage improvements at Belmont weir

Belmont weir is the lowest weir and small hydro station on the River Brosna. We have been highlighting the fish passage problems at Belmont Weir on the River Brosna on this page over the past few months. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we visited the site during June 2014 to find that works were finally being undertaken by the OPW to address the problem of the blocked fish pass. We were also delighted to see that additional works were being undertaken to provide a new low flow fish passage channel through the underpinning of the bridge. There have been fish passage problems at Belmont Weir and this bridge for decades, and we are very happy that this work is finally being undertaken. We would like to take some credit for getting this done, and this action illustrates the power of social media campaigns like the ones we run.

The improvements unfortunately do not include an eel pass. It is also noted that it is likely that no restrictions will be placed on the hydro operator, who has enjoyed 24/7 use of the full flow of the river while these works have been ongoing. Compensation flows and fish screening are the key issues here. As this is an old hydro site the installation is exempt under current fisheries legislation and current small hydro and fisheries guidelines, which are in our opinion inadequate anyway in meeting the requirements of the water Framework and habitats Directive. Large numbers of silver eels are killed while passing the numerous smaller hydroelectric schemes like on the River Shannon – such as Belmont – none of which have any fish screens. Silver eels leaving Loughs Owel and Ennel in Co Westmeath have to pass through three hydroelectric schemes on the River Brosna before then passing through Ardnacrusha. These smaller schemes have turbines which spin at a higher rpm so can have even higher turbine passage mortality factor that a large station such as Ardnacrusha. Across Europe there are over 24,000 hydroelectric schemes killing silver eels on their spawning migrations. Salmon smolts also has to pass through these turbines. These improvements do nothing to address this major problem.

The photos below are from our visit on the 30th June. Photos of this site from earlier in the month are available on our Facebook page.

fish pass (7)
Entrance to new low flow channel at the small hydro scheme discharge; fish will still be attracted to the draft tubes and there is no barrier installed.
fish pass (1)
Low flow channel will be a significant improvement; but what about compensation flows?
fish pass (5)
Low flow channel under bridge; a welcome improvement. Unfortunately no eel pass has been provided.
fish pass (2)
OPW machine installing low flow channel under bridge. Good to see OPW doing something positive with machines in a river!
fish pass (3)
These works will provide significantly improved fish passage, but no eel pass has been provided?
All win for the hydro operator who has been able to generate 24/7 using the full flow of the river during these works. Operational restrictions need to also be placed on this scheme to improve fish passage.

Also see these posts on the River Brosna:-

We are highlighting issues affecting this catchment as an example of the challenges facing rivers in Ireland. These issues have acted in combination with fish passage issues at the Shannon dams to ensure that salmon runs to this sub-catchment are now at negligible levels. For more details see here.

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