Salmon swim in '˜dry' Perthshire after hydro scheme altered

For the first time in nearly 70 years salmon are swimming in a Perthshire river. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
For the first time in nearly 70 years salmon are swimming in a Perthshire river. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Salmon are leaping in a scenic Perthshire river for the first time in nearly 70 years after pioneering work was carried out to restore flow cut off by a hydro-electric scheme.

A ten-mile stretch of the River Garry, which had been dry since the mid-1950s, is now running with water, promising major benefits for local salmon populations.

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The move comes as a result of a landmark agreement between energy firm SSE, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) and Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board (TDSFB) to allow water to flow once more from Pitlochry dam.

The work – which included the removal of a weir at Struan that had acted as a barrier to migrating fish – was designed to have maximum environmental benefits while minimising the impact on potential power generation.

Local fisheries managers have welcomed the measures.

David Summers, director of TDSFB, said: “Salmon have already been seen leaping at the falls at Struan after an absence over 60 years – something once assumed would never happen again. We hope that this will ultimately see an extra 1,500 salmon registered on the Pitlochry fish counter annually, bringing local benefits for both angling and general tourism.”

Jeremy Williamson, director of renewables operations for SSE, stressed the firm’s commitment to nature.

He said: “As a responsible developer and operator of renewable energy we want to ensure that we balance the nation’s need for power with our environmental responsibilities. Although restoring the water in this stretch of the River Garry will result in a loss of potential hydro energy, we recognise our responsibility to ensure that we manage the waters carefully where we operate our hydro assets and hope that the work to restore the River Garry will help ­create a sustainable population of salmon in this stretch of the river.”

Terry A’Hearn, chief executive of SEPA, added: “A total length of ten miles of river with historically little or no flow will be improved. We hope to see salmon return to the river and that the river will now support a healthy population of juvenile and adult fish.”

Scottish environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham, who officially opened the restored watercourse, described the project as “an excellent example of successful partnership working”.