Say no to hydro power on the Afon Conwy in the Snowdonia National Park

Archive for ‘December, 2013’

If you care about the Conwy and want to know how you can help, read on.

National Resources Wales are holding an open consultation into the future management of rivers in Wales. Anyone who fishes in, paddles on, swims in, lives near or just cares about our waterways needs to respond. The more responses they receive, the more influence our views will have on this and future threats to our precious rivers.

Visit their consultation page for more details.

Please download and fill in the Question Proforma and return it to westernwalesrbd@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk before the 22nd Dec when this consultation ends.

If you are not sure what to write, a copy of the response sent by Save the Conwy can be found here (.pdf) and here (.docx).

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Initial estimates suggest the scheme will have a dramatic adverse effect on kayaking. The dewatered section of the Conwy, known locally as the Fairy Glen, is extremely important for UK paddlers. If the scheme goes ahead there will be a 42% drop in the amount of time when this section will have enough water to paddle.

The Fairy Glen is a classic section of river for white water kayaking and can be considered one of a small number of test piece runs in the UK. As well as having continuous, high quality, challenging rapids, this part of the Conwy is also important to paddlers because it runs very regularly. Other sections of similar quality & difficulty are usually found much higher in their catchments and so need very high water levels before flow is sufficient for kayaking. By contrast, the Fairy Glen is a narrow gorge in the lower reaches of a large river system. As a result, water levels are often high enough for kayaking here when other rivers are too low. This is frequently the only place in Snowdonia, indeed in England and Wales, where kayakers can find sufficient flow to paddle white water of this quality and difficulty.

Currently, discharge in this section of the Conwy reaches or exceeds the minimum paddling threshold for 33% of the year. Since the hydro scheme will remove water from the river above the start of the run & return it below, discharge in the Conwy will have to be higher before flow in the Fairy Glen reaches the minimum level for kayaking. Initial calculations suggest that when this is accounted for, the Fairy Glen will run for only 19% of the year. This represents 42% drop in the amount of time when it is possible to paddle this section.

It could be suggested that diverting water might benefit kayakers by reducing levels in the Glen at times when the Conwy may be too high to paddle. It is important to realise however that this is not a gain in real terms. When the Glen is too high numerous other rivers of similar quality and difficulty are running so paddlers have numerous alternative options already. The greatest concern for paddlers in the loss of paddling on the Glen when it is the only section of this standard running, anywhere in England or Wales.

Update, 11 February 2014 – Final APPENDIX_A_Impact_of_Afon_Conwy_on_Kayaking

An Appendix to this post, with details of flow data used, will be added shortly.

If you paddle the Fairy Glen, please head over to PaddleBubble.com and record your trip – click the Add Paddle button and fill it in.

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Fairy Glen woods is a semi-natural broadleaved woodland set on a deep rocky gorge on the Afon Conwy near Betws y Coed. Trees include sessile oak and ash together with some small leaved lime, birch and wych elm. The humid conditions in the gorge provide ideal conditions for mosses, lichens, liverworts and ferns.

Here’s the Countryside Council for Wales / Natural Resources Wales’ information about the Fairy Glen woods, a site of Special Scientific Interest, through which the hydro scheme’s pipeline will be laid. Some useful resources here too on the species to be found in and around the woods.

www.ccgc.gov.uk/landscape–wildlife/protecting-our-landscape/special-landscapes–sites/protected-landscapes-and-sites/sssis/sssi-sites/fairy-glen-woods.aspx

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Dams and weirs trap sediment, which would naturally be swept downstream to feed and enrich the lower reaches of a river, making life hard for life above and below the dam.

The German company RWE NPower, in association with Dulas (a North Wales renewable energy consultants)  are planning to dam and divert  up to 75% of the flow above a minute compensation rate of the  Afon Conwy above Conwy Falls for the purposes of small scale hydroelectric power generation. The Afon Conwy represents the jewel in the crown of North Wales’ wild mountain rivers, boasting numerous Site Special Scientific Interests (SSSIs) sites along its banks.  The Conwy Valley is also an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and much of the river lies within the Snowdonia National Park.

We believe …

  • This project should not be allowed to continue further.
  • Alternative means and locations for generating energy should be found among already heavily industrialised sections of river within the North Wales area.
  • The Afon Conwy’s intrinsic natural value is far greater than the potential benefit of a high environmental impact – low energy output industrial scheme.
  • The damage to community, environment and local businesses are too great a cost for such a limited project.

Save the Conwy intends to raise support and lobby key stakeholders and local people to defeat the project in order to prevent the unique environment of the Afon Conwy being ruined forever. 

While supportive of the wider aims of renewable energy development, Save the Conwy is opposed to this specific project on the following grounds:

Environmental damage & why we should value the Conwy’s ecosystem

The most seriously affected area of the Afon Conwy is also one of Wales’ most pristine and wild sections of river. Whilst other areas of the National Park are heavily managed, the “Fairy Glen” gorge remains wild and almost untouched. Modification of the river’s flow would mean an end to this wilderness status with a largely unknown impact on many indigenous species. The RWE’s proposed environmental safeguards are insufficient, with any modification in flow liable to affect natural sediment movement of the river. Construction work will damage an ancient woodland , and have a bad effect on local flora and fauna.

Snowdonia is an AONB of which the Afon Conwy is a significant part. The heavy construction work required for a project of this size will detract from the landscape, making the area less attractive for tourists, and has potentially wider consequences for local flora and fauna.

Disruption to local communities and businesses

North Wales is reliant upon the A5 as a key route for both local traffic and tourists travelling to the area. The increased industrial traffic on the A5 and other key routes within the National Park will cause a bottleneck of traffic near the Victoria bridge and Conwy Falls turnings, discouraging tourists and severely disrupting local businesses reliant on these visitors.

Loss of recreation & community

The wild and largely unmodified river currently provides a significant draw to the area for tourists looking to enjoy adventure sports, fishing or wilderness walks along its banks. The river, and specifically the “Fairy Glen” section of the Afon Conwy, currently provides a world class environment for adventure recreation such as canoeing & kayaking, along with superb fishing and a truly magical venue for photographers and naturalists.  Proposed reductions to flow would significantly limit the recreational activities taking place on the Conwy, all of which have a low environmental impact. In addition, the flow reductions would negatively affect picturesque qualities of the Conwy’s most beautiful section.

Losses to tourism

Save the Conwy is concerned that, should the National Park support the scheme the wrong message will be broadcast; that Snowdonia is open for re-industrialisation and power generation on it major waterways. Save the Conwy is also concerned that such schemes are solely for the profit of foreign investors and large landowners and ignore the interests of local people reliant on tourism for their living.

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