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Thursday, 21 January 2021 13:13

Barriers for endangered eel set to be removed in England's Wessex region

The prospects for the endangered European eel in England's Wessex region counties have been given a boost as man-made barriers are set to be removed or redesigned to allow their crucial migrations.

Civil engineering firm Land & Water, who for decades have specialised in work on the interface between water and land, has won a design and build contract with the Environment Agency in the South West, to design, manufacture and install bespoke eel passes in the Wessex region on the following watercourses: · River Frome, South Gloucestershire · Land Yeo, North Somerset · Congresbury Yeo, North Somerset · Uphill Great Rhyne, North Somerset · Chedzoy New Cut, Somerset · Middle Moor Rhyne, Somerset; and the River Brit, Dorset.

European eels are a critically endangered, and consequently a legally protected, species that are at risk of disappearing from our rivers forever if urgent action is not taken to alleviate the threats they encounter during their upstream and downstream migrations.

Eel pass exampleEach autumn, adult eels migrate downstream and out of our rivers to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to breed for a single time, then die. The spawned larvae then drift back across the Atlantic, reaching our waters 1 – 3 years later, to start their migration up our rivers to feed and grow. Common threats encountered during these migrations include man-made river obstructions such as weirs, dams, river pumps and turbines.

With design works already in process, and installations likely to take place on site from the beginning of March, the project aims to provide safe upstream passage for eels over numerous water control structures around Wessex. The works also require the need to design and install safe means of access to allow for future maintenance.

Minimal large plant will be required as works are intricate. Each element is being designed, where possible, to allow for single or two-man lifts. Specialist underwater equipment will be used to aid the installation, reducing the need to install cofferdams at certain locations, therefore minimising the risk that this could impose from an environmental and health and safety point of view.

Land & Water's Site Manager, Matt Bush, said: "We are currently in the design stage of this project, working with a specialist contractor, but are looking forward to manufacturing and installing the eel passes which will future proof these structures for eel migration and help protect the declining eel population.

"Most of the sites we will be working across in the South West are quite different and require bespoke solutions, which each coming with its own set of challenges. One common challenge comes from the unpredictable river levels and so managing this proactively and safely is key to delivering this project on time and within budget.

"We are looking forward to getting stuck in to this project."

Land & Water has held Minor Works Frameworks contracts with the Environment Agency since 2003 and describes itself as being the go-to contractor for projects which look to add value to the areas in which it takes place.