Waterfall ‘at risk’ from hydro plan

THE Reekie Linn – “the smoking pool” – is, by any measure, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Scotland.

Sited on the edge of the Angus glens, two falls – one of six metres followed by another of 18 metres – unite, when the River Isla is in spate, to form an awe-inspiring single cascade of water that sends an eerie, smoke-like plume billowing into the sky.

But there are now mounting fears that controversial hydro power plans by Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) to build a “run of the river” water abstraction scheme in the area will rob the dramatic falls of any spectacle.

Concerns are also being raised by the local fishery board about the potential impact of the scheme on vital spawning grounds for the Tay, one of Scotland’s main salmon rivers, and angling on a popular beat on the River Isla.

SSE has gone out to public consultation on its plans to use a six-mile stretch of the Isla – including the site of the Reekie Linn and a second waterfall known as the “Big Slug” at Auchrannie – for a hydroelectric scheme that would involve water being fed through an underground pipeline system to a generating station before being returned to the river six miles downstream, just above the village of Alyth.

The run of the river scheme would be capable of generating up to ten megawatts of electricity at any one time and up to 30 gigawatt-hours in an average year, enough to supply the domestic needs of more than 6,500 households.

The energy giant is expected to submit its proposals for the scheme to Angus Council later this year.

The battle lines, however, are already being drawn and both the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board and the Kirriemuir Angling Club plan to object to the scheme.

Dr David Summers, fisheries director of the Tay Salmon Fisheries Board, said the board had “significant concerns” about the potential impact of the abstraction project.

He said: “Reducing the flow may impact on salmon spawning in that neck of the woods.

“The other issue which they have not, as far as I can see, taken account of from the start is that the same area is also an important fishery for local people. And the sort of flows when the abstraction rate would be maximised would be in a dropping spate, which is normally the time that people would want to go fishing.

“The Reekie Linn, a dramatic waterfall in the area, is also a popular tourist spot, and there will be lot of people who will have significant concerns about how this scheme is going to affect the falls. For a significant part of the year, the flow would, in effect, be reduced to a summer level.”

Derek Strachan, the chairman of Kirriemuir Angling Club, said the beat on the Isla where the extraction scheme would be sited accounted for about a third of the annual fishing by members of the club.

He, too, voiced concern about the impact on salmon spawning stocks – and the spectacular falls.

“The Reekie Linn is a famous waterfall and there is another waterfall in the area called the Big Slug,” he said.

“They would be an apology of what they are if this scheme goes ahead.”

A spokeswoman for SSE rejected the claims. “We will only abstract water when there is enough water in the river for us to use,” she said. “If it drops below a certain level, as rivers do as part of their cycle, there could be weeks on end when we would not take anything out of the river.”

She said mitigation measures to protect salmon stocks would be included in an environmental statement due to be published in the spring.