Tag Archives: Teise

The Three Weirs: Part 1

Author: Nick Hale, Project Officer

An Environment Agency assessment of the Teise and Lesser Teise, two tributaries of the Medway in Kent, indicated there is a problem with wild fish stocks in the river.  Generally there is an absence and/or low abundance of key expected species such as brown trout, chub, predatory perch and pike, roach and stone loach.

In fact, the situation is probably even worse than this assessment indicates as a large proportion of the fish caught here are derived from artificial stocking, masking the figures of the wild population.

So what can be done about it?

One major contributing factor to these poor wild fish populations is the presence of barriers to fish migration: weirs. Weirs fragment the available habitat, prevent fish from reaching spawning grounds and change the geomorphology of the river channel as well. (For a reminder about the pros and cons of weirs, our very own Dr Chris Gardner wrote an excellent article recently on how weirs affect fish communities).

The Medway Catchment Partnership have been looking at barriers to fish migration in a bid to address this on a catchment scale. As a start, last year we successfully removed Harper’s Weir, restoring fish passage to a 3.5 km stretch of the River Teise. However, if you travel downstream, you are confronted by more and more weirs.

The Three Weirs Project looked to tackle a set of three weirs on the Lesser Teise, continuing this great work.

Where are the Three Weirs?

The Three Weirs, named Gatehouse (1), New Lodge (2) and Dairyhouse (3) are located on a 1.2 km stretch of the Lesser Teise near Chainhurst, Kent. All three are concrete weirs, likely originally installed in the mid-20th century for the purposes of agricultural land management.

weirs

What ecological benefits will result from removing the weirs?

The presence of a weir creates an impounding effect whereby the upstream water levels are much higher than normal.  This drowns out any natural features within the channel making it more like a canal than a river.

Impounded channel upstream of Dairyhouse Weir.

Impounded channel upstream of Dairyhouse Weir.

Removing the 3 weirs will increase the hydromorphological diversity (flow and river bed structure) of this stretch of river. Natural processes such as sediment transport and gravel mobilisation will return, exposing a range of original channel features like gravel berms and meanders. For example, the removal of Harpers Weir revealed 16 new riffles.

Ecological benefits will be seen both upstream and downstream of the existing weirs with salmonid and coarse fish being able to migrate through this previously unpassable stretch, improving their ability to carry out their full life cycle and ultimately increasing their chances of survival.

Localised improvements in water quality through faster, low flow conditions will reduce the build-up of ammonia and phosphates and increase dissolved oxygen to support a wider range of invertebrates. To capture these changes, an invertebrate survey has been undertaken by Robert Aquilina at specific locations along the proposed works area.  This process will be repeated in September 2017 to record any changes in diversity and abundance of the invertebrate community living within the channel.

In preparation for full removal, the wooden boards that were fixed to the crest of all 3 weirs were removed in 2015 with help of the Environment Agency. This reduced some of the impounding effect and allowed the channel upstream to adjust and stabilise prior to a complete removal of the structures in the future.

The next step now is to remove the weirs, but you’ll have to wait for part 2 to find out all about that!

Rustling up some Riffles

Our Project Officer Rosie has been out on the River Teise undertaking her first weir removal.

Why was this weir an issue?

Harpers Weir formed an impassable barrier to fish passage on the Teise, a tributary of the River Medway in Kent.

Harpers Weir

Weirs such as this impede the movement of fish upstream and downstream, preventing access to other habitats required for a healthy lifecycle.

They also impound the river upstream, slowing the flow of water and resulting in the deposition of silt on the channel bed. In the case of Harpers Weir, this impoundment was observed for several hundred metres upstream.

Impoundment

For all these reasons, we’ve been very keen to remove the weir and restore fish passage to this section.

In 2015, Rosie started the process by removing the wooden boards on top of the weir, reducing the height to see how the river would respond. You can read this blog here, but in summary it was looking good!

Then, in February this year, Rosie and our contractors Amenity Water Management arrived on site to start the full weir removal.

The concrete weir and flanks were broken up using a hydraulic breaker attachment, before being removed with an excavator. The concrete underneath the footbridge immediately upstream was also removed to let the river bed naturally re-grade back upstream (the footings would otherwise create a new barrier after weir removal).

Diggers on Site

Once the weir and bridge footings were removed, the banks where the weir once stood were regraded, using the excavator with a bucket attachment.  The toe of the banks was stabilised using coir geotextile to line the banks secured with wooden pegs, which in turn were held in place with faggots and pinned with untreated chestnut posts secured with high tensile fencing wire.

After Weir Removal

Once this weir was removed, the upstream impoundment disappeared, and a total of 16 new riffles emerged, with pools between them – all great habitat for many species of bugs, fish and water birds!

You can watch the whole project in our time-lapse footage below!

This project was funded through Defra’s Catchment Partnership Action Fund awarded to the Medway Catchment Partnership, focusing on the River Teise within the Medway Management Catchment.

Action on the River Teise!

We’ve started our project on the River Teise to make a weir passable for fish migration.

Weirs were introduced years ago to help control the flow of water, allowing our ancestors to operate mills. Nowadays many remain in rivers despite no longer being required.

Weirs are a barrier to fish passage and leave the habitat fragmented with fish populations isolated. In the event of pollution or other presures like climate change, these isolated populations are at greater risk with nowhere to escape to.

Although being a barrier to fish migration is a significant problem, weirs also interrupt the natural flow of rivers, resulting in a degradation of habitat. Upstream of weirs, water is slowed down which causes silt to drop out and accumulate in the channel.

This image from the Wild Trout Trust explains the effects of weirs on fish habitat:

WTT Weir

Funded through Defra’s Catchment Partnership Action Fund, we’ve started works on a weir on the River Teise – where Olly and Rosie carefully removed a number of boards from the top of the weir.

Weir Board Removal

After removing the boards, the impounded water levels upstream dropped noticeably, revealing many natural features of the river which had been drowned out when the weir was put in place.

Before

Before

AfterAfter

New Habitats

Some of the diverse new habitat revealed by lower water levels above the weir

The next phase of the project is to remove the impoundment and enable full fish passage and habitat restoration, so watch this space!