Farmers fined after illegally dredging river

A FARMING firm has been fined £500 after carrying out illegal water works at a burn in Scotland.

Arbroath Sheriff Court found D Geddes Farms Ltd guilty of carrying on engineering works, which involved dredging the Gighty Burn, during a period ‘critical’ to the spawning of juvenile fish, at the hearing yesterday (Wednesday).

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), which carried out the investigation, reported seeing ‘silty water’ in the burn on April 18, 2011 and a digger operated by a worker from D Geddes Contractors Ltd, dredging the area.

SEPA’s investigating officer John Shabashow said: “Watercourses are dynamic systems and any man made alterations can have unexpected and dramatic impacts, both upstream and downstream of the worked area.

“This could include destruction of habitat. If the work had been carried out in accordance with the General Binding Rules, any environmental impact would have been kept within acceptable limits and wildlife would have been protected.”

SEPA Dundee and Angus unit manager Stuart McGowan added the case could have been avoided if the operator had spoken to the Agency before starting work.

He said: “Dredging carried out in the wrong way can cause serious environmental harm, damage to fisheries and increased flooding downstream. However SEPA does not want to impede farmers or landowners who want to improve field drainage.”

SEPA does not require an application to authorise any of the following activities.

  • The removal of in-stream or bank-side vegetation
  • The removal of in-stream debris/rubbish
  • The construction of new drains and ditches (where no watercourse previously existed)
  • Construction and maintenance of road drains
  • Dredging already straightened ditches less than 1metre wide, subject to good practice being followed

Readers' comments (3)

  • Meanwhile, the environment agency are too lazy to dredge the rivers themselves, as is their statutory duty. Poor farmers.

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  • There's no situation so bad that a Civil Servant can't make it worse.

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  • Our farm is has been increasingly effected by water logging over te last few years - a few things I have learnt along the way through dealing with the EA (Im in England not SEPA) and our trusty agronomist.:

    The EA doesn't have a statutory duty to dredge rivers. It has powers to do it if it needs to. The money it gets from DEFRA to protect peoples houses and lives - protecting land is lower down on the list!

    Internal drainage boards are there for land drainage. Unfortunatly we don't have one and I think setting one up is fairly major job!?

    We as land owners do have some responsibilities to maintain rivers/drains etc. if someone in the system isnt doing it and causing you problems them Agricultual Land Tribunals can be used but again this could be hassle. So how about we talk to our neighbours and co-ordinate our selves!?!? Think it is called co-operation ;o)
    I guess it depends on the size of the catchment but this last option seems to be the best doesn't it? we can realistically expect less from the bankrupt government so lets look after ourselves! Talk to the guys at the EA who do the drainage work - once they realise you aren't there to abuse them they are realy helpful!

    One last thing - and this is where our agronomist comes in - check your field drains and soil for compaction! well over a half of our fields were compacted either 2-3 inches down after sheep grazing stubles or 12nces down due to machinery / plough pan and this was the cause of standing water. And, suprise suprise after 50 - 100 years some of our field drains are knackered!

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