River Garry Latest

The upper River Garry is perhaps Scotland’s most abused river. In a scheme designed during the Second World War, all the water is abstracted by Scottish & Southern Energy plc (SSE) for hydro-electric generation

The upper River Garry is perhaps Scotland’s most abused river. In a scheme designed during the Second World War, all the water is abstracted by Scottish & Southern Energy plc (SSE) for hydro-electric generation. This means that in dry weather there is no, or very little, flow over the 13 miles of river, familiar to drivers on the A9, from a little upstream of the House of Bruar to Dru¬mochter Summit. This has caused the loss of perhaps as many as 3,000 spring salmon and grilse and is a blot on the landscape along the most important tourist artery into the Highlands.

But now an oppor¬tunity to restore the Garry has arisen after 50 years. The Water Framework Directive requires the restoration of such over abstracted rivers through a process to be led by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). However, while fisheries and other environmental interests were waiting for the formal process to unfold, SSE were lobbying Scottish Ministers and asked them to “direct” SEPA not to allow any loss in “renewable” generation for WFD purposes. In a pre-emptive move, last August SSE volunteered to put back some flow, but only as much as they could justify by cutting the flow in the Tromie, a tributary of the Spey! No electricity and no revenue would therefore be “lost”. Perhaps as a result of SSE’s lobbying the proposal was agreed “in principle” with SEPA and the last Scottish Executive.

The pitifully small flow proposed is much too small to properly fill the channel and the lack of any artificial spates would prevent most salmon getting up to spawn. To really be of use, more water must be released into the Garry and some tributaries, including periods of high flow in the autumn. This will mean SSE would have to “lose” about four wind turbines’ worth of electricity as a mini¬mum, but this is an inconsequential amount in terms of the wider renewable energy debate. Surely Scotland’s most abused river is worth more than four wind turbines?

The future of the River Garry is now in the hands of SEPA who have the responsibility of reviewing the flows before 2009, but the ultimate decision is one for the Scottish Ministers. Seeing no other solution, the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board has launched a campaign which is fully supported by the Salmon and Trout Association to persuade the new Scottish Government that the Garry must be restored as a salmon producing river and the Spey should be left alone. This has already attracted much support, including a petition which gained nearly 3,000 signatures within a week!

To help the River Garry you and your friends could sign the petition. You could also write letters to the press or local politicians. You should, especially, write to the local MSP, John Swinney, who can be contacted at John.Swinney.msp@scottish.parliament.uk. Further details, including petition forms and a leaflet can be found at www.tdsfb.org/RiverGarryReport.htm.