A project to provide a sustainable water supply for one of South Wales’ best known industrial sites will not only boost the economy but will also benefit local fish populations.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is working with Associated British Ports (ABP) to refurbish Green Park Weir on the lower River Afan where water is abstracted for Port Talbot Steelworks and Docks.
In the past industry’s demand for water has, on occasion, affected river flows at certain times of the year, this work will ensure the flow is maintained all year round.
ABP are leading and funding the project which will improve the weir and feeder channel and make it easier for fish to migrate up the Afan.
Dave Charlesworth, Team Leader Conservation and Fisheries Technical Support for NRW, said:
“Supporting development that has a low impact on the surrounding environment and natural resources is one of our key aims.
”Projects such as this demonstrate how we can support wildlife while also benefitting people and the economy.”
Before work could begin, the feeder channel had to be drained and any fish in that section would have died.
To prevent this, NRW officers staged a planned rescue operation to remove fish from the site. This operation was the result of a close working partnership between NRW, ABP and contractors Andrew Scott.
The team spent a full day electrofishing and relocating hundreds of fish from the area, including game species such as juvenile salmon and trout, coarse fish including roach and eels and other species such as bull-heads and sticklebacks.
NRW has been working closely with the Afan water management group - ABP, Tata Steel, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and Afan Valley Anglers - for more than a decade to ensure this initiative delivers for both industry and the wider environment.
Over the last 10 years the group has come up with a number of technical solutions that have been greatly helped by ABP replacing the outer lock gates of their Port Talbot Docks to ensure more efficient water usage and provide increased water for the river along with an improved fish passage.
“It is really very exciting to be part of a project that has the potential to provide a great deal of benefit to the local community.
“A long term, sustainable water supply will help safeguard industrial requirements and at the same time ensure an important natural resource is protected.
“Fish populations will benefit from the improved passage and lead to a vibrant local rod fishery providing a welcome boost for the local economy.”
Bob Slorach, ABP Projects Engineer, said:
“This beneficial project is complicated because of the need to rebuild the whole weir while working within the river itself and maintaining river flows and flows to the docks for navigation and the steel works.
“Available working areas are very restricted and the planned fish rescue operation carried out by NRW was factored in to our plans from an early stage in order to ensure the project is carried out in the safest and most environmentally considerate way possible.”