Sunday 14 September 2014

Trial Lowering of the River Derwent - 8-24th September 2014

 Lowering The Derwent?
River Derwent, Upstream from Swingbridge, Low Hutton
It comes as a surprise to hear that the Environment Agency are undertaking a trial to lower the level of the River Derwent by opening the sluice gates at Kirkham Weir. This trial is already under way and the sluice gates will gradually be opened until the 24th September when they will be fully open. They will be returned to their normal position by the 3rd October when the river will start to recover its normal level.

Why are they doing this?

Apparently 'in-river structures' such as the Kirkham and Howsham Weirs cause the flow rate of the river to decrease and makes water 'pond' upstream. This has the effect of reducing the range of habitats that the river would normally support and decreases amount and variety of wildlife that the river could support. The whole of the Derwent from Ryemouth to Barmsby on Ouse is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), however the river is considered to be in an unfavourable condition resulting from a combination of agricultural run-off pollution and silting which is caused in part by the presence of weirs which reduce the flow rate.

So the Environment Agency are undertaking this trial with a view to collecting data on how the flow rate of the river changes as it reduces to its natural level and to assess the state of the river banks and river bed when the water reaches its lowest level.

Derwent and Meadowsweet, Low Hutton

What happens next?
Once the trial is complete the gates will be returned to their normal position and the level of the river will be restored. The Environment Agency will then look at the data and present several options for managing the river level.

One of these options may include the complete removal of the Kirkham Weir.

The Environment Agency say they will undertake public consultation about the options but some concerns have already been expressed about the possible effects on fish populations, river bank erosion and flooding, as well as long term changes to the character of the river.
How can I find out more?
You can download copies of the Environment Agency's materials here:

Kirkham Weir

Q&A Document_27 August 2014-1

(note that these are hosted via as I have been unable to locate any publicly accessible materials about this on the Environment Agency website)

River Derwent from Swingbridge, Low Hutton
Who can I contact?
If you have any questions or concerns about the trial and its possible outcome, then you can contact the project manager Rosa Foster on 0113 819 6939 or email
or Ben Hocking

And if you have got any concerns then it's probably best to express them to your Parish Councillor as well.

© 2014

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