Restoring the River Dee

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It’s the Queens Diamond Jubilee year and a lot of work is planned to help restore the River Dee to its former glories, writes Ken Reid.

There are a series of important projects scheduled to help improve the riparian habitat of the River Dee and facilitate greater connectivity for the Aberdeenshire community with the River Dee-the Lifeblood of the valley which are being led by the charitable River Dee Trust.

To help raise funds for the Trust a grand auction of 14 prestigious lots is taking place in London on March 1 at 6.30 pm at the Savile Club, (69 Brook Street, Mayfair) with an eclectic selection of stellar opportunities to fish some of the most sought-after rivers in the world as well as some fine sporting artworks and literature.

Journalist and writer Fiona Armstrong will be the guest speaker and the auction will be conducted by Bernard Williams of Christie’s. Attendance at the auction is free although it is necessary to reserve a place. For further information, including the placing of sealed or telephone bids visit www.riverdee.org.uk or contact the River Dee Trust directly (013398 80411) for a free auction catalogue (the catalogue can also be downloaded at www.riverdee.org.uk).

Funds raised from the auction will partly go to the Upper Dee Riparian Scheme, an ambitious £2.4 million project to ameliorate the impact of future climate change by protecting over 50km of riverbank and creating over 1,100 acres of native woodland.

In 2009 a project partnership, comprising the River Dee Trust, Dee District Salmon Fishery Board, Dee Catchment Partnership, Scottish National Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Cairngorm National Park Authority, was formed to examine the feasibility of establishing native riparian trees over the main stem and upper tributaries of the River Dee. The trees, which were once part of the natural landscape in the Upper Dee catchment, will help protect juvenile fish in the river in the future through shading which will reduce the water temperatures that are already on the rise due to climate change. The work will support other species that benefit from the woodland habitat created on the river banks and start to restore the natural landscape.

The Culter burn catchment (covering Peterculter, Garlogie and Echt) will see significant work undertaken. The work proposed will ease two major man-made obstructions to fish migration in the Culter catchment, in preparation for the Culter Dam having a fish pass installed next year. The Culter burn has 125 km of salmon and sea trout habitat that is currently unavailable due to obstructions. Restoration work will include opening up stream network and undertaking habitat restoration works to improve habitat quality. The two obstructions that will be eased have over 20 km of fish habitat upstream of them. This work is part of a project that will help give people living in the city more connection with the natural environment.

Underpinning the River Dee Trust is a core principle of education, and to this end there are plans to create further access to the River through the Trust’s IntroDee schools education programme and Summer Schools project. The Trust’s IntroDee programme saw 400 children participate in a variety of activities. This included presentations at a variety of venues in Aberdeenshire where presentations were given explaining the life cycle of the native fish and the economic importance of the River Dee as a global iconic salmon river. Groups were also taken to a local trout fishery to learn to fish and undergo a ‘bug hunt’ by pond dipping to learn about the natural food chain which supports native wildlife. Angling tourism on Royal Deeside supports over 500 full time jobs and contributes over £12 million per annum to the rural economy from February until October.