UNION CANAL – DEWATERING
As previously mentioned, Scottish Canals have notified the SFCA that they will be undertaking a ground investigation project in Linlithgow. The project will involve several boreholes being drilled along the canal. In order to minimise risk of water leakage from the canal, Scottish Canals intend to dewater a 5050m section of canal from Bridge 42 (Wilcoxholm; NGR 301970 677143) and Bridge 48 (Woodcockdale; 297408 675823).
In our previous report we highlighted the fact that we had received numerous requests of information from clubs and anglers about what restocking/restoration activity will be taken after the works are complete to restore the fish stocks to their current levels. We have subsequently received more information from Scottish Canals about how the work will be undertaken to minimise the risk of fish losses and this has gone some way towards allaying our concerns and those of our members.
As previously mentioned, it is anticipated that the water volume will be reduced by 73% and a fish rescue will be undertaken by consultants APEM using electro-fishing. APEM has many years of experience in undertaking fish rescues in canal environments and has undertaken fish rescues previously on the Forth & Clyde Canal, the Crinan Canal and at The Falkirk Wheel. APEM’s codes of practice for disinfection follow DEPFA, CEFAS, Natural England and Forestry Commission guidelines. The equipment used for the fish rescue will be a combination of electro-fishing and netting and maintains the welfare of the fish during the rescue operation, in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act.
As the Union Canal is a continuous water body approximately 50 km in length, a series of Stop Planks/Gates will be put in place by the contactors to all the notified stretches to be systematically lowered so that the planned work can be carried out. The fish captured by the fish rescue will be relocated in the adjacent watered sections of canal above and below these Stop Planks/Gates. Water will be over-pumped through the dewatered section to maintain a flow through the canal while the ground investigation work is undertaken. Once the Stop Planks/ Gates are removed/opened after the works are complete fish will be free to migrate back into the previously dewatered stretch. The works have been timed to coincide with the period prior to the fish breeding season when day length is short and water temperatures are low. This ensures that there is sufficient dissolved oxygen to safeguard any fish missed by the fish rescue in the partially dewatered stretch and minimises the stress of the fish being caught and relocated during the work.
Work to fit the Stop Planks/Gates commenced on 9th January and the dewatering expected to start on 11th January. The fish rescue will commence on the 16th January. SFCA representatives and Canalside Ranger, Linton McBurnie, will be on site to monitor the fish rescue. The SFCA still shares the concerns of local anglers about the significant risk of fish losses, mainly through the predation of these remaining stocks while the water level is so low and the fish have no available cover and will be monitoring the situation. We would urge anglers who regularly fish the canal in this area to visit the canal during this period and to report and concentrations of fish or high level predation incidents to Linton McBurnie (07711 796305) or SFCA Chairman, Gus Brindle (07812 241816) so that steps can be taken to try to minimise the impact.
As part of the project, Scottish Canals will also be holding two community drop-in events to allow members of the public to come along, see the canal as they’ve probably never seen it before, chat with their team, and find out a little more about the engineering, heritage, and wildlife of the Union Canal and the work they undertake to safeguard its rich heritage. You can find more information on the sessions on their website (http://www.scottishcanals.co.uk). Again, we would urge local anglers to take the opportunity to attend these events.
Gus Brindle, Chairman