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River Deerness Restoration Project

The ongoing River Deerness Restoration Project aims to restore habitat connectivity for fish species by creating and monitoring fish passage solutions at a series of manmade barriers on a major tributary of the River Wear.

As a result of the Deerness feasibility studies, a successful application was made in 2012 to Defra's Catchment Restoration Fund who awarded £546,975 in order to carry out a three-year River Deerness Restoration Project. In partnership with Durham County Council and Durham University, this project is restoring habitat connectivity throughout the Deerness catchment and working to achieve good ecological status under the Water Framework Directive. The principle way of achieving these ends is to address the fish passage barriers identified both during the feasibility studies and by volunteer walkover surveys. It is equally important to assess the benefit that the easement solutions bring.

This assessment is being conducted by 'before and after' surveys and monitoring at each easement site, carried out by a PhD student and staff from Durham University's Biology Department. Electro-fishing and fish-tagging, habitat surveys and invertebrate samples are all being carried out upstream and downstream of each site both before and after easement work. It is expected that the abundance of migratory fish passing the barriers will increase and the PhD work will be used to confirm whether this is the case. The study of fish populations and movements through a series of long culverts in the Old Durham Beck catchment is also part of the three-year programme. 

The barriers at Cornsay Colliery, Ushaw Moor Bridge and Broadgate Weir have now had fish easements installed and more details are available on the completed project pages. Dutch ford footbridges in Holburn Woods, on the edge of Esh Winning, are currently being replaced to allow the channel to re-naturalise. By the end of the project we hope to see the whole course of the River Deerness opened up to all local fish species.

Durham PhD student, WRT staff and volunteers have all contributed to surveying the Deerness Anesthetized brown trout waiting to be tagged Brown trout waiting to be released

Funders and supporters of this project:

Environment Agency Durham University The Rivers Trust Durham County Council Living North Sea


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