A Shetland businessman says his livelihood is threatened by a windfarm plan. Paul Featherstone rears around 180,000 sea trout smolts annually at his hatchery in Weisdale, which – after having been grown into sizable fish in sea cages – are being sold as organic sea trout to customers throughout the UK.
His business, Shetland Sea Trout Ltd, heavily depends on continually pristine water qualities in the Burn of Weisdale, which feeds the tanks baby fish are being kept in.
Yesterday, he said that plans to build around 30 of the 168 turbines planned upstream of his hatchery would “seriously” affect his business.
Mr Featherstone’s fear is that due to major construction and engineering work the peat bog in the upper half of the Kergord Valley will be destabilised and thus massive peat run offs will flush through the Burn of Weisdale.
But council controlled Viking Energy who in partnership with Scottish & Southern Energy want to build the 600MW windfarm in the central mainland of Shetland said they would not get planning consent from the Scottish Executive were they to pollute waterways in the process of building it.
Mr Featherstone said: “If undisturbed the peat acts as a big reservoir for water which ensures that the burn does not dry out. I am therefore wholly depended on the water from a 12 square kilometre catchments area of peat, which, unfortunately, encompasses the windfarm.
“The construction of a big windfarm will alter the hydrology of the whole glen and what will happen is a variety of reactions including flush floods,peat slides and bog bursts. In addition, the peat that stays in place will dry out and will become unstable as well.”
He added that the system was so finely balanced that when the nearby farmer was digging ditches the water running through his hatchery was peatier “for a week or so” and he had to deploy measures to prevent the gills of the four centimetre small fish from clogging up.
He continued saying that despite extensive consultation with the bird lobby, no one from developer Viking Energy had been around to speak to him.
“This is a green business, accredited by the Organic Food Federation, which is now threatened by another green business,” he said.
Over the last 10 to 12 years, Mr Featherstone has been on the forefront of developing techniques to farm sea trout, a high value species and regarded as superior to salmon.
It is now farmed by award winning fish farming company Johnson Sustainable Seafoods who just launched their organic seatrout range in Tesco supermarkets.
The company’s managing director Karol Rzepkowski expressed his hopes that the developer would be “professional enough” to work together with Shetland Sea Trout to ensure that construction work would not impact on the hatchery’s sustainability.
Project manager of Viking Energy Aaron Priest said yesterday that they had to demonstrate to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), to SNH and the Scottish executive that they were capable of building the windfarm without polluting water courses.
“Obviously, if there was a pollution incident involving the hatchery despite us having demonstrated to all the agency’s satisfaction that we can do this, we most likely would be prosecuted by SEPA and anybody affected in the hatchery business would have a claim against us.
“We are acutely aware that we cannot cause a pollution hazard. We would most unlikely be able to get planning consent if we can’t demonstrate how to manage this issue sensibly and sensitively,” he said.
He added that the company’s partner Scottish & Southern Energy had built and was operating a 52 turbine windfarm at Hadyard Hill, in Ayrshire, which was adjacent to the public water supply for the town of Girvin.
“The waterway is also used by wild salmon for spawning and there are no problems experienced there. It shows that a windfarm can be a good neighbour,” he said.
Viking Energy is in discussions with other seafood businesses in Shetland, after trades body Seafood Shetland had expressed concern over the potential impact of the construction phase for the windfarm on particularly mussel farms anchored in sheltered voes of Shetland.
2 May 2007
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