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Culter Burn hydro scheme and fish pass approved


Plans for a new hydro scheme and fish pass which could bring significant long-term ecological benefits to protected species have been approved by councillors.

Culter burn valley. Members of the Planning Development Management Committee approved Gordon Investment Corporation Ltd's application for Culter Burn, which lies within the River Dee Special Area of Conservation and boasts otters, freshwater pearl mussel, and Atlantic salmon among its protected species.

The 0.4 acre site lies north of the bridge at the A93 at the east of Peteculter, close to the Rob Roy statue. It is centred around a historic, derelict five metre high dam, weir, sluice gate, channel and mill lade which were constructed for the former Culter Paper Mill.

The plans are for a hydro-electric Archimides Screw-powered turbine within an Aberdeen granite power house, an 'Alaskan A Denil' fish pass attached to the weir face, an access track, and new intake and outflow channels on Culter Burn.

The fish pass will allow migratory salmonid fish, which are unable to move up the burn catchment beyond the dam, to increase their habitat range and re-establish the natural populations upstream. This is the first and most important element of the River Dee Trust's strategy to remove five recognised obstacles and re-establish the natural habitat of the Culter Burn catchment. It is seen as a primary environmental benefit of the development as it will provide an enhanced habitat for otter and freshwater pearl mussel, as well as other species.

The creation of the fish pass will potentially allow the colonisation of the upstream reaches of the Culter Burn by freshwater pearl mussels, an area which has been inaccessible to migratory salmonids which support the species' larval stage for 200 years.

The development will allow access to an additional 73 kilometres of watercourse to salmonid fish which carry the mussel larvae and could allow the colonisation of the habitats in the upper reaches. Freshwater pearl mussels are a primary reason for the area's designation as the River Dee Special Area of Conservation.

It is anticipated that the improvement in habitat quality for otters upstream, with increased foraging opportunities, will lead to an improvement in the area's otter population.

The hydro electric turbine will generate 430 MWh per annum of renewable electrical energy, saving 233 tonnes of carbon emissions each year. The energy produced will be fed into the national grid.

Committee convener Councillor Ramsay Milne said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for production of sustainable clean energy and also brings wonderful ecological benefits to the Culter Burn and improved biodiversity for the area."