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Water works clarification

FARMERS ARE being reminded to consult SEPA before carrying out water works to avoid ending up in court.

The reminder has come after D Geddes Farms Limited was fined £500 at Arbroath Sherif Court on February 20, after carrying out illegal work in an Angus burn.

D Geddes Farms Limited, was found guilty, after trial of carrying on engineering works, namely dredging the Gighty Burn during a period critical to the spawning of juvenile fish at Arbroath Sheriff Court. The matter was investigated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

A report of silty water in the Gighty Burn was received by SEPA on April 18, 2011. When an officer investigated he found a digger carrying out dredging of the burn. The SEPA officer advised the operator of the digger to stop what he was doing immediately.

D. Geddes Farms Limited had instructed D. Geddes Contractors Limited to carry out these dredging works. The dredged section was noted to be approximately 850 metres in length.

John Shabashow, SEPA's investigating officer, said: "Watercourses are dynamic systems and any man made alterations can have unexpected and dramatic impacts, both upstream and downstream of the worked area.

"This could include destruction of habitat. If the work had been carried out in accordance with the General Binding Rules, any environmental impact would have been kept within acceptable limits and wildlife would have been protected."

Stuart McGowan, Dundee & Angus Unit Manager at SEPA said: "While I'm satisfied with the outcome of this prosecution it is likely that this case could have been avoided had the operator spoken with SEPA prior to starting work.

"Dredging carried out in the wrong way can cause serious environmental harm, damage to fisheries and increased flooding downstream. However SEPA does not want to impede farmers or landowners who want to improve field drainage."

To clarify, SEPA does not require an application to authorise any of the following activities.

- The removal of in-stream or bank-side vegetation.

- The removal of in-stream debris/rubbish

- The construction of new drains and ditches (where no watercourse previously existed)

- Construction and maintenance of road drains

- Dredging already straightened ditches less than 1metre wide, subject to good practice being followed.

Stuart McGowan further explained: "Other activity, such as sediment removal from dry gravel or upstream and downstream of bridges, requires registration which can be acquired online (at a cost of £77). If more extensive works are proposed, a formal license may be required, but we urge farmers and landowners to cooperate with neighbours to apply in these situations. That way the cost is shared and a catchment based management solution can be agreed. SEPA is already working in catchments where farmers have come to us with proposals for sediment management.

"I would reiterate that our message is to approach SEPA for advice. Our Arbroath office dealt with 17 dredging related queries in the last month. Out of these 13 were allowed to proceed without further contact, while 2 required registration and 2 required licences."

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