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Minister of Environment and Climate Change visits Nith catchment

Stewart Stevenson, Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Climate Change, recently accepted an invitation from Nith District Salmon Fishery Board to visit the Nith Catchment to experience the unique circumstances facing the Board in connection with its daily Fishery Management of the Nith and its tributaries.

Mr Stevenson attended a Board meeting at the Cairndale Hotel on 31st October where he saw at firsthand how the Board operates and conducts Fishery Management.

The Minister listened as agenda items were covered from fisheries enforcement and renewable energy proposals through to planning applications, survey work, hatchery operations and other business.  Mr Stevenson entered into the free exchange of views and comments and contributed to many of the topics covered.  His attendance and input to the Board meeting was much appreciated by the Board members and attending invitees from SEPA, SNH and Nith Catchment Fishery Trust.

On the following morning The Minister accompanied Board Members and SEPA representatives on a trip from Dumfries through the catchment to New Cumnock where he attended at two open cast coal sites to see river diversion projects that had been undertaken and were underway to allow for coal to be removed by open cast mining methods from under the bed of the River Nith.

The Minister wanted to see how the Board works with other key stakeholders in ensuring the welfare of salmon and sea trout and other species of fish whilst still permitting these construction projects to proceed.  The Board uses current fisheries legislation to protect the aquatic environment that fish require.

The first visit was to Kier Mining’s site at Greenburn where a river diversion channel was in the process of being constructed to allow for the river to be diverted to a new purpose built course in order to allow open cast coal operations to work coal from under the existing bed of the river.  The necessary engineering procedures were explained by Kier Mining staff and details of the creation of fish habitats within the new river course together with the plans for fish rescue from the original river course were described by Fishery Board staff.

The group then visited Scottish Coal’s House of Water open cast site where they were shown a river diversion channel which had been completed in 2004. Scottish Coal described how the channel had been constructed over the reinstated ground of a former open cast coal site and Fishery Board staff described habitat features and riparian planting schemes which have benefited aquatic life and fish populations within the area.

Scottish Coal demonstrated the various methods of work in the mine and the group saw a controlled explosive blast taking place to free up rock and coal for excavation from the site. The group were also shown examples of mine water discharge treatment carried out to prevent pollution from entering the river system.

Board members are very pleased that the Minister attended for the two day visit and that he showed such interest in the diverse issues that face the Board in its dealing with and implementation of Fishery Management in the Nith Catchment.

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