Work starts in Warkworth to help protect endangered eels
Vital work to help protect endangered eels species is starting in Warkworth next week.
Northumbrian Water will be installing special screens at its water intake on the River Coquet.
The mesh screens will help prevent eels being sucked in by the pumps, which abstract water from the river to supply nearby reservoirs and water treatment works.
It is part of a £9million project to install screens at four different intakes on rivers across the North East, following implementation of the Eels (England and Wales) Regulations 2009.
Over the last 30 years, the number of elvers (young eels) migrating into European rivers has fallen to less than 5% of the levels in the 1980s, putting the eel on the critically endangered list.
The eel regulations were introduced in 2009 to help preserve the threatened species and reverse the drop in the numbers of adult eels returning to the sea.
Work on the eel screens at Warkworth will begin on Monday (April 8) and is being carried out by Mott Macdonald Bentley (MMB), in partnership with the Environment Agency. The work is due to be complete by February 2020.
The water company also plan to replace the pumps at the water intake, to improve the resilience of the treatment works and make sure it continues operating well into the future.
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Northumbrian Water's project manager, Brian Ford, said: "It's important that where we're abstracting large amounts of water, we do all we can to protect the wildlife and the environment.
"Eels might not be the most attractive of creatures, but they represent part of the UK ecology which must be preserved at all costs.
"I'm really pleased to be looking after this project to install these new screens which have a small mesh that prevent the eels from passing through and getting injured.
"I hope that this will help contribute to restoring populations, as well as helping to protect other fish and the wider biodiversity of the river."
Robbie Stevenson, environment planning specialist at the Environment Agency, said: "Eels are fascinating creatures with a mysterious life-cycle starting and ending in the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic.
"The decline in the number of young eels reaching our shores is not fully understood and is likely to be due to a combination of factors, including the effects of barriers to migration and abstractions to climate change.
‘'Projects such as this are an example of the water company taking positive action to reduce the impact that their operations have on the environment.
"While this project is being delivered to achieve compliance with eel regulations, it's important to note that the outcome will be a benefit to other fish and wildlife for many years to come."