Sir Maesyfed Salar 12 (SMS12)

The River Elan just below the dam - only the big stones remain

This project is a triumph of persistence - the successful bid to the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) was third time lucky. Sir Maesyfed Salar 2012 (SMS 12) will restore the habitats of tributaries in the non- convergence area of Powys and Monmouthshire, including the river Elan.

The Elan presents an unusual challenge. Having been impounded for Birmingham's water supply since 1901 (the title photo shows the Caban Coch dam, the furthest downstream of the Elan reservoirs), the river has progressively lost its supply of bedstone and gravels. Floods have washed gravel out of the river but the dams have prevented any replacement. On top of that, low compensation flows have allowed what spawning beds there are to become compacted. These two problems have confined salmon spawning to just a few remaining areas. The plan is simple: gravel will be taken from the entrance to the reservoirs upstream and placed immediately below the dam. Sites where compaction is limiting spawning will be loosened with techniques we successfully pioneered in 1994.

The other aspect of the project is to restore natural salmonid habitat by fencing and repair of erosion. Work will focus on the Ithon, its tributaries and other Radnorshire streams. Fencing out Radnor's massive stock of sheep and beef cattle will mean that streams that have lost all their vegetation will again have alder stands that stabilise some of the worst erosion and bank loss. The budget is £ 470,575 and the project will last for 2 years. We anticipate completing 30km of river improvement, along with gravel replacement on the Elan.

"When I paid my first visit to the Upper Wye spawning grounds, over 20 years ago, there was quite a lot of gravel below the dam, and a good deal of spawning took place there; but most of the gravel has gradually been washed away and no more can come over the dam to take its place."

'The Spawning Ground of the Wye'
J A Hutton, 1932

Progress:

September 2013

The lower Rhyd Y Meirch fish easement has been completed and a barrier removed from the lower Ffrwd where it joins the Usk.

The first round of habitat improvement work has been completed on the Nantmel Dulas, Blue Lins and Gwenlas (all Ithon tributaries) with further work on these due to start shortly. Work is in progress on the Farm Brook and Clywedog and consents on the Mithil, main Ithon and lower Llynfi are being obtained.

August 2013

2014 - WUF staff installing a revetment in the Ithon to prevent erosion and restore fish habitat.

We were awarded another £305K to complete the habitat, fish passage and water quality programme improvement programme elsewhere in our catchment. This funding will allow the places and sites that have missed out previously to be linked with sites that have already restored, as well as extending the activity within SMS12.

March 2013

Consents have been obtained. Habitat work has started on the Gwenlas, an upper Ithon tributary.

June 2014

To date, over 20km of habitat work (single bank) has been completed on the Ithon and its tributaries, including the Natmel, Clywedog, Gwenlas and Blue Lins. Three Usk tributaries have also benefitted from habitat improvement - the Bran, Yscir and Berthin (8.58km).

Three barriers to fish passage have been removed within SMS12, from the Llantrisant Brook, Berthin and mouth of the Ffrwd, all lower Usk tributaries. Two other lower Usk fish passes have been modified; on the Nant Ffrwd and Rhyd-y-Meirch.

A further 15km of the Ithon catchment (single bank) has been consented for habitat work later in 2014 along with approximately 6km of the Yscir. In addition, four fish easements are in the planning permission stage (3 on the upper Wye and one on the Gavenny) while another barrier will be removed from the Olway.

September 2016

After a protracted negotiation and consenting process that lasted over two years, the first phase of Elan gravel replacement will start in late September 2016. Further details will posted here shortly.