Eel and fish access- improvements to tide doors on South Cumbrian becks

South Cumbria Rivers Trust has recently completed important eel and fish pass improvement work on two south Cumbrian rivers.

Gleaston beck, New Biggin and Newlands beck near to Ulverston are two of three tidal river sites that are now benefiting from innovative improvement work to allow the unimpeded passage of eel, salmon, sea trout, lampreys and other migratory species between fresh and salt water.

Tide doors form part of our coastal flood defences and help protect property against tidal flooding. They are usually simple, hinged doors hanging from a supporting structure in the lower reaches of a river or beck that close as the tide presses against them.

Trust Manager Pete Evoy says “ We all understand the importance and need for flood protection but these tide doors also present a significant barrier to migrating fish and eel particularly as they attempt to enter our rivers on flood tides. Eel, specifically, are a species under threat and their numbers have fallen dramatically since the 1980’s. What is needed is a solution that allows passage for these species but also offers a safeguard against tidal flooding.”

Gleaston beck Tide door with new float activated eel/fish valves installedSouth Cumbria Rivers Trust has been working very closely with the Environment Agency, particularly the Flood and Coastal Risk Management department and Fisheries staff to find an acceptable answer to this problem.

The solution has come in the form of a device that acts something like a “cat-flap”- but with a difference. These smaller doors, installed within the larger tide door, hang open during the incoming tide and continue to allow eel and fish to pass through them after the main door has closed. These smaller doors will themselves eventually close but only at a point pre determined by an adjustable float mechanism. In this way opportunities for access to migrating species are extended over the tidal cycle while ensuring that there is no flood risk.

Pete said “The support and cooperation of the Environment Agency and the landowners we have worked with on these projects has been magnificent and I thank them all. There has been all round understanding that we all must do what we can to improve access to our river systems and make the maximum amount of habitat available to all these creatures.”

The good news is that this DEFRA funded work will now be extended very soon to a tide door site on Colton beck, Greenodd and other river locations where eel migration is impeded.