Reprieve for Mersey’s wildlife

Wednesday 22nd June 2011

Calm at Leasowe by Pete Marsden

The Wildlife Trusts welcome shelving of barrage plans

The Wildlife Trusts have today welcomed the news that a tidal energy scheme on the Mersey estuary has been put on hold. Serious concerns had been raised by Wildlife Trusts in the affected area due to the potential impact on thousands of birds and newly established populations of migratory fish.
The Mersey estuary is designated as a European Special Protection Area (SPA) and is a critical autumn migration and winter refuge for up to 70,000 birds. Following water quality improvements in the last 20 years, the estuary is now also home to migratory salmon and acts as a nursery for other fish species.

Cheshire and Lancashire Wildlife Trusts have voiced concerns about the loss of mudflats used by wading birds for feeding, and possible changes to the tidal flows which deliver nutrients and sediments to the estuary ecosystem.

The Feasibility Study Report issued by Peel Energy Ltd (22 June) found that the estimated £3.5bn initial construction costs were ‘not competitive’ in current markets.

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The Wildlife Trusts support the development of marine renewable technology but it must be the right technology in the right place. This means giving due consideration to the natural environment and choosing a scheme which will have minimal impacts on wildlife.

“The most recent plans for the Mersey Barrage posed a threat to a very rich and valuable habitat. It’s therefore a relief to hear the barrage is on hold for now.”

Charlotte Harris, Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Director of Conservation said: “We believe the developers have made the right decision to stop the current plans for a tidal barrage on the Mersey estuary.

“Crucially, this gives us the breathing space to fully understand what the possible impacts of a tidal power scheme may be on the wildlife that relies on the Mersey every single day. We feel there are a number of gaps in our knowledge including the impacts on fish migration and sediment movement.”

Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Dave Crawshaw said: “With the scheme now on hold, we have the opportunity to explore the uncertainties around whether this really is a viable option for the estuary’s wildlife.

The final report released by Peel Energy Ltd can be viewed at www.merseytidalpower.co.uk.