There are many questions being asked about DNAire, so we have produced a short list of FAQs to help you understand more.
What are the project aims?
To make the river once again the heart of the communities through which it runs. To do that we will:
Re-connect the ecology of the river by building fish passes on the last four high weirs, thus allowing salmon, coarse fish and eels to return to their traditional spawning grounds in the headwaters.
Work with communities along the river to engage and educate them about the past, present and future of the river and how it contributes to their health and the economy.
Why do we need fish passes?
The Aire needs fish passes that allow poor swimmers such as roach and chub to cross its weirs. Migrating fish like salmon can jump small waterfalls but historic weirs as just too hard for most of them to beat. They’re often too tall, too steep or too shallow at the foot to allow them to leap. They stop salmon reaching their spawning grounds in the upper Aire and leave genetically isolated coarse fish populations that at risk of disease or being washed downstream. The Larinier fish passes we plan to install can be used by any fish over 3 or 4 inches in length and eel passes are also being installed.
Aren’t there salmon in the River Aire already?
We have fisherman reporting catching salmon in Leeds city centre and they have been filmed as far up the river as Newlay Weir, just over a mile upstream from Kirkstall Abbey. The weirs that will be tackled by the DNAire project will enable them to migrate upstream to their spawning grounds.
How will other wildlife benefit on the river?
The fish passes aren’t just for salmon. They will be designed for all species including trout, coarse fish, eels, river lampreys and sea lampreys. We’ve seen CCTV footage of an otter in Leeds city centre and we expect numbers of species such as kingfishers will rise all along the river as fish populations increase. This is a sign of healthy fish stocks.
Will we be able to observe the salmon using the fish pass?
You are unlikely to be able to see salmon passing through the fish passes unless you are looking right down into them. However increased salmon numbers will mean that you will see an increasing number of salmon leaping at the weirs in an attempt to cross them before finding the fish pass. We will be exploring methods of helping people see fish moving through the weir such as fish counters.
Will it change the look of the weir?
Care is being taken to ensure that the final designs are sympathetic to the existing weirs. Options being considered include stone facing the outside and inside of the weir. Particular care will be taken at Salt’s Mill as the weir forms part of a World Heritage Site. They will look just like a small separate channel on up river side of the weir. Smooth internal concrete surfaces at the waterline will help lampreys use the fish pass as they allow them to cling to them with their mouths.
The Burley Mills Fish Pass in Kirkstall is on public land and can be visited. Other easily viewable fish passes are at Crown Point in Leeds and at Castleford.
When will it happen?
At the moment we are conducting detailed development, design and public consultation in preparation for a Second Stage Heritage Lottery Fund bid in mid-2019. If successful, our programme of public events, working with education providers and volunteering will start in late 2019 and run into 2022. Work on the fish passes is likely to happen in summer 2020.
Who is funding this work and what will it cost?
This is a £1.6million scheme. The Heritage Lottery Fund have agreed to fund half of the costs and the Environment Agency have already committed substantial sums. We have had exploratory discussions with other funders (but it would not be fair to name them until they are committed) and are confident that we can raise the total needed.
How can I get involved?
There’s going to be loads to do! In the short term please visit our website to complete our survey and tell us what you enjoy (and would like to change) about the river. Once the project is running we will be looking for people to share their stories of the river, to volunteer to care for and to join us in enjoying the river. We’ve loads of ideas from guided walks to citizen science to canoeing the length of the river with a 360o camera.
Will you be doing any education work?
Yes, education is a major part of this project. We plan to provide a range of training and education opportunities with the project.
We want to use it as an opportunity to shout about how STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) can help us solve our environmental problems. We’re going to be working with colleges, universities and schools to help them learn about the project. This will include placement opportunities for undergraduates and post 16 students.
We will be training members of the community to capture their own stories related to the river as well as how to do their own local actions to monitor the health of the river (such as taking part in national Riverfly surveys) and improve its condition (for example, litter picking & invasive weed control).
How can I find out more about DNAire on line?
We have this website – DNAire.org.uk which will carry News updates as and when there are significant developments – and you can follow us on social media (search for @aireriverstrust on Twitter and Facebook). Alternatively sign up for email updates on our website.