NRW launches £6.8 million LIFE Dee River project

Today (Friday 18 September), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) launches its multi-million pound river restoration project to transform the River Dee and its surroundings, to help improve declining fish populations and rare wildlife in the area.

The £6.8 million, cross-border project will bring multiple benefits to the environment, particularly improving the numbers of salmon, lamprey and freshwater pearl mussels, helping them become more sustainable in the future.

With a catchment area of more than 695 square miles (1,800 km), the Dee is one of the most highly regulated rivers in Europe. Along with Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) it has been designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Conservation work carried out during the project will help the entire river ecosystem, by improving fish migration, biodiversity, and habitats for birds and mammals. It will also improve water quality and the safety of recreational use.

Working in partnership with local communities, landowners and contractors, the project will include weir removals, constructing fish passages, improving the river channel, and adapting farming and forestry practices. It will also focus on rearing and releasing the critically-endangered freshwater pearl mussel, until the population is re-established.

Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said:

“I am very pleased to note the launch of Natural Resources Wales’ LIFE Dee River project. This is an incredibly important piece of work, which will not only help us to stabilise and reverse the decline in fish populations, but also support the ecosystem along one of Wales’ most beautiful and significant natural settings.
“We are keen to continue to work with NRW and other partners in projects such as these, which will not only help to promote and protect threatened fish stocks, but will also bring benefits in other areas – such as heritage, flood prevention and recreation.
“I am also pleased to note that the project will, where possible, employ local contractors, which will be of huge importance to the regional recovery as it recovers from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The Minister added:

“This project is set to leave an impressive legacy, and ensure the River Dee and the ecosystem it sustains will be there for the enjoyment of generations to come.”

Clare Pillman, Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales, said:

“This is a major, large scale project which will make a real, tangible difference to the River Dee and surrounding area, not only from an environmental perspective but also creating wider socio-economic benefits for the region too. 
"It is the first time that NRW have put forward a river restoration project addressing multiple issues across such a large catchment, and demonstrates how we are taking immediate practical action to respond to the global challenge of biodiversity loss and helping to tackle the nature emergency.”

The main uses of the River Dee are farming, predominantly cattle and sheep grazing; providing water supply for 2.5 million people; tourism including recreational angling, canoeing and navigation; and nature conservation.

Over 50 public events will be held over the next four years, to raise awareness and increase understanding of the value and importance of the project and the River Dee.

The project is generously funded by the EU LIFE programme, Welsh Government, Environment Agency, Snowdonia National Park Authority, Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water, and will run until December 2024.

To find out more about the project, or to watch the online launch, please visit the project’s webpage, follow @LIFEAfonDyfrdwy on social media, or email the team at lifedeeriver@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk  

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