River Waveney fish given ‘new lease of life’ by restoration project

Restoration project at River Waveney between Scole and Billingford.
Restoration project at River Waveney between Scole and Billingford.
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The marine population of a river on the Norfolk-Suffolk border has gained a “new lease of life” from a successful restoration project carried out last year, according to the Environment Agency (EA).

Improvement works at a two-and-a-half kilometre portion of the River Waveney, running between Scole and Billingford, were completed over two weeks towards the end of 2015—the result of concerns about dangers to the aquatic life first raised years ago.

The project, carried out by EA teams in partnership with the River Waveney Trust, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and landowners Andrew West and Sir Rupert Mann, aimed to address the issue of dissolved oxygen levels—a sign of river health—previously thought to be so low that the fish would not survive.

Will Akast, the EA project manager, said: “The project was a success thanks to some fantastic team work.

“It has improved the river’s habitat at very low cost and the additional riverside tree planting work proposed will help fish in this section of the Waveney cope with prolonged periods of hot summer weather.

“We are grateful to the landowners for being so supportive and agreeing to this important work being undertaken on their land.

“We are keen to work with other landowners to develop river habitat enhancement projects.”

The agency has stated it will now look to identify areas along the riverbanks where trees can be planted, with the ultimate goal of increasing shade cover, thereby reducing stress to river species during periods of high temperature, and enhancing habitat diversity through the tree roots growing in the banks and in the channel.

They also insist the work conducted so far will not increase flood risk or affect land drainage in any way.

Geoff Doggett, founding trustee of the River Waveney Trust, said projects like this had given the river a healthy “report card”, but there was still work to be done, highlighting sections by the Scole Pocket Park, Denmark Street in Diss and the segment upstream to Redgrave Fen as specific areas of focus.

Mr Doggett told the Diss Express: “If you say things are fairly good, that does not mean you can take your eyes off the road, so to speak.

“The River Waveney is not a hugely distressed river, but there are parts of it that have always attracted our attention.

“Our job is to be the eyes and ears. All of these tributaries are just as important as the main river itself.”