£670,000 project to increase migratory fish in River Almond

The River Almond

A £670,000 project is set to get underway in West Lothian to alter the River Almond to help the free passage of migratory fish species.

Contractor Barhale Limited will undertake works on an existing large weir at the river to introduce a two-flight fish pass.

It comes after the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) identified that physical barriers across rivers were preventing the passage of migrating fish, and adapting them would make over 200km of river accessible to migratory fish once again.

Weirs were originally constructed to provide power to mills, with the current Mid Calder Weir being 65 metres long and 2.5 metres in height. It was built in the early 19th century on top of a previous weir, with evidence of a similar structure on the site dating as far back as the 16th century.

A fish pass was installed at the site 40 years ago, but West Lothian Council said it has proven ineffective. It added that it is ‘critical’ that such barriers are adapted to improve fish passes – with the free passage of migratory fish species being a ‘key’ indicator of ‘good’ ecological condition of the river.

Francis Hayes, river restoration specialist at SEPA, said, “Rivers are a vital part of our landscape and a great asset to Scotland, providing wildlife corridors, opportunities for recreation and wellbeing and resources for local communities.

“We acknowledge the multiple challenges currently facing the River Almond and it is important we work together with partners to tackle these issues for the future benefit of the river and the communities who use and enjoy it.

“This weir project will, in time, bring significant benefits for the local area by making over 200 km of river accessible to migrating fish for the first time in generations. We look forward to seeing resilient fish populations return to the river network once more and provide wider environmental benefits for wildlife and neighbouring communities.”