Forres Angling Association (FAA) have written to the Scottish Government protesting at plans to build the Berry Burn wind-farm, fearing the effects downstream on the River Findhorn.
The wind-farm is to be built at Carn Kitty on land belonging to Altyre Estates.
They further claim that the fishery board, made up almost entirely of riparian owners, including Altyre Estates owner, Sir Alasdair Gordon Cumming, and Moray Estates, who own the Altyre fishing nearby, do not appear to be concerned about the effect on the River Findhorn fish stocks from the construction of 29 turbines.
They have submitted a formal objection to the Scottish Government which could result in a public inquiry. Moray Council approved the Berry Burn wind-farm, which will have an output of 2.5 megawatts, in December, 2005. The application, from Catamount Energy, is now sitting with the Scottish Government, who must give their approval before it can go ahead. A consultation process has just ended.
In a letter to the Scottish Government, Campbell Ross, secretary of the FAA, said members had concerns over damage to fish stocks, pollution, flooding, landslide risk, erosion and sustainability issues, should the proposals go ahead.
“The FAA is committed to the conservation of existing wild salmon stocks and to the river management, environment and ecosystem,” he said. “The four-mile stretch of the river already suffers the deposition of millions of tons of eroded material and gravel as a result of upstream flash flooding and landslide.”
He added that FAA problems were worsening, with gravel deposition and flooding, due not only to climate change, but also to increased run-off from upstream forestry and land drainage. He said landslide activity had also increased due to poor bank maintenance and overgrazing by sheep and deer, resulting in de-stabilisation.
“The FAA water is already the subject of major flood alleviation measures,” he said, “including the extraction of vast quantities of gravel on an ongoing basis in an effort to prevent the town of Forres flooding again.”
He said these issues, along with concerns that the river’s riparian owners appeared to have conflicting interests due to the majority of the board having windfarm interests, had resulted in their formal objection.
“FAA have, until recently, always accepted that the Findhorn District Salmon Fisheries Board acts as guardian and protector of the River Findhorn ecosystem,” he added. “The FAA does not consider the current board membership can objectively protect the River Findhorn, as a majority of its board members are wind-farm applicants.”
The association further claimed that development on the peat grounds, which will be excavated during construction of the windfarm, could endanger wild Atlantic salmon by damaging fish stocks and spawning grounds on the River Divie, a major tributary of the River Findhorn, which is an offence under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 2003.
They also claim that landslides could be brought on by the excavation, causing pollution and flooding, particularly with the combined effect of flood works and wind farm construction.
Meantime, James Stuart, who owns a house at Dunphail, said that he was concerned about the joint effect on the Findhorn, taking into consideration the fact that detailed plans of the River Findhorn and Pilmuir Flood Prevention scheme had just been submitted to Moray Council by the Moray Flood Alleviation team.
Mr Stuart said that said no “joined-up thinking” appeared to have been done on the combined impact of a flood scheme which proposed to remove tonnes of gravel from the river, and the fact that huge excavation would also be done upstream should the windfarm be approved.
“While considerable detail was given concerning flood mitigation measures in the Forres area, no mention was made of the increased risk of the Findhorn flooding should the Moray and Highland Councils continue to support the development of windfarms on the Dava Moor, the heart of the catchment of the Findhorn,” he said. “Right now there are seven wind farms at varying stages of development on the Dava Moor, the first at Berry Burn, south of Forres on the Altyre Estate.”
He also claimed damage to sensitive peatland was not an acceptable risk, and that by drying out the peat, developers would destroy its capacity to retain water, leading to increased risk of flooding.
“This is what the Moray Flood Alleviation team and Forres residents want to avoid,” he said. “And anglers up and down the river are aware of the potential damage to spawning areas and river banks caused by flooding.”
He agreed with Campbell Ross of the Angling Association that the fishery of the Findhorn had previously been protected by riparian owners sitting on the Findhorn District Fishery Board.
He went on: “But now that the majority of members of the Board have wind-farm interests in the Findhorn catchment, which is a conflict of interest recognised by the board of the Forres Angling Association, as a precautionary measure they are seeking an independent Public Inquiry into the Berry Burn wind-farm’s impact on the Findhorn.”
He said the Berry Burn was the first of seven proposed wind-farms to impact on the Findhorn catchment, and urged Moray Flood Alleviation to object to wind farms in the Findhorn catchment on the grounds of increased flood risk to Forres.
By Tanya McLaren
11 June 2008
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