REWATERING THE RIVER GARRY
2017: The restoration of flow to the River Garry.
On 30 October 2017 following an address at Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre by Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, the board’s fisheries director was invited to turn on the flow of the River Garry, a local river that had been dry for over 60 years.
The restoration of the River Garry is the biggest individual project for the benefit of spring salmon that could be performed in the Tay catchment.
A whole new river was added to the map that day. It was particularly great news for the River Tummel system, but benefits will be felt in the Tay too. But why was the River Garry dry? Why has its flow now been restored?
As of late November 2017, the flow release mechanism at Garry Intake is still being fine tuned and the flow is not yet running at its full level to achieve a flow of about 1 cumec at Dalnamein Lodge. In 2018, of course, there will not be unregulated flow from tributaries as there was in 2017 and conditions for fish migration might differ.
It is recognised that, in future, fine tuning (“adaptive management”) may be required and a “freshet” release plan to aid fish migration will have to be developed on the basis of experience. Accordingly, an adaptive management monitoring plan is being developed by SEPA, SSE and the Board to learn how the ecology, including salmon, responds to the restored flow and whether the flow works or not.
Included within this plan, the Board will continue for a time to stock parts of the Garry with eggs from reconditioned kelts of local origin in order to ensure that there will be a return of adult fish to test out their ability to pass falls etc under the flows available. The parents of all the eggs stocked will be genetically “fingerprinted” so that stocked juveniles in the river can be differentiated from naturally spawned juveniles which will need to be monitored. The ultimate aim, of course, is a self-sustaining population.
Meaning for the salmon in the River Garry
Flow restoration on the main River Garry has created over 13km of new main river which will be accessible to salmon. While some flow will also be restored to the area above Garry Intake in 2018 salmon will not be accessing this area on account of the practicalities of screening descending smolts out of Garry Intake. However, over 5km of new salmon habitat will be opened up on the Allt Glas Choire tributary up to the water intake and over 4km of habitat above the intake can be stocked with salmon as the intake will be screened. The extra cumec of water in the Garry during dry weather means that the wetted area in the Garry in the 6.5 km stretch between Struan and Blair Atholl will also be greater, allowing more juvenile salmon to be produced in this area too. The board considers that if all this habitat is used by salmon then another 1500 salmon, early running salmon, could be produced. This is undoubtedly the biggest single individual project of this type that could be done in the Tay catchment, if not in Scotland as a whole. The board and partners SSE and SEPA are well aware there will be an element of trial and error to see how well this restoration works. There are waterfalls that might only be passable under certain flows and these have yet to be properly determined. Accordingly the board has stocked the Garry with eggs from reconditioned kelts from local broodstock and will continue to do so for a period. This will ensure there are salmon returning to help us establish what successful migration flows are as well as speeding up colonisation. As part of a joint monitoring plan between SEPA, SSE and the board, all stocked fish will be genetically fingerprinted so that they can be differentiated from wild spawned juveniles which will have to be monitored to determine overall success. The Board is very pleased the Garry has now been restored and wishes to thank SSE and SEPA for this great work that has been done.