Project name: Coniston Cold Weir Removal
Location and channel length improved: The River Aire at Coniston Cold, North Yorkshire. 20.4km of unrestricted access from the Aire and into Otterburn Beck.
Issue: A former mill weir which was in situ for ~180 years, yet redundant for at least 60. The 19m wide, 1.4m high (plus a 4m sloping stone apron on the downstream side) was a major barrier to fish and sediment movement and had impounded the river, thereby drowning out quality habitat, for ~100m.
Objective: Full removal to reinstate connectivity.
Method: Pools and riffles created with heavy machinery, including gravel introduction to create spawning riffles. Impoundment removed. Bankside tree work to increase light in the channel. Brushwood berms, flow deflectors, hinged trees, cover logs. Bank lowering and re-profiling.
Budget: £7,956 (full economic cost)
WTT role: Jonny Grey, lead partner — project design and delivery.
Partners: The Phillip Green Trust (owner) and tenant farmer, Environment Agency, and Aire Rivers Trust. Also supported by the Patagonia World Trout Fund.
Project date and duration: Summer 2018, 2 days + associated pre and post (ongoing) monitoring.
Members of the Aire Rivers Trust had been negotiating on and off with the former owner and now Trust responsible for the site regarding fish passage options for ~6 years. The owner had originally purchased the plot of land with an idea to restore the former mill but the realisation of potential flood damage, especially in light of the 2015⁄16 floods, had subsequently altered their perspective.
Due diligence searches revealed no abstraction licences, a pipeline (thankfully, downstream and hence theoretically unaffected), and a listed structure (the A65 road bridge at Coniston Cold) ~160m upstream. The latter was important to consider from the perspective of the ‘knick point’, the point in the channel where there is greatest change in gradient, migrating upstream through the sediment accumulated upstream of the weir and potentially affecting the footings of the bridge. An independent, full topographic survey was commissioned and those data analysed and interpreted by the Geomorphology Specialists at the EA. Again, thankfully, this process was deemed unlikely to affect the bridge.
The actual removal was carried out by local contractors (who are also keen anglers) using 8‑tonne plant with a pecker and bucket. All materials were recycled, i.e. the concrete weir crest was broken up (any metalwork removed from the river by hand) and used as infill for the pool, especially on the inside of the bend, left bank, downstream). The stone from the apron was either used to bolster the existing revetment on the outside of the bend (right bank), or to top-dress the concrete in the pool. Sedimats from HyTex (UK) Ltd were installed downstream of the removal site to trap fines; these were removed afterwards and used to restore and eroded area of bank downstream.
Four months after removal (encompassing two spates >50cm), the river is beginning to form a fabulous deposition bar of cobbles and gravels down the left bank (right of shot), thereby focussing the flow into a narrower, deeper channel with cleaner sediment.