Wednesday 29 December 2010

New Natural England officer for Wirral

Natural England have appointed Alice Kimpton as temporary officer for Wirral terrestrial SSSIs. Some of you may remember Alice as a Ranger on North Wirral Coastal park about 10 years ago.

Hilary Ash, Mathilde Baker-Schommer and Lynne Greenstreet at Red Rocks

Hilary Ash, Mathilde Baker-Schommer and Ranger Lynne Greenstreet met up with Alice on a chilly West Kirby beach in December to look at management, especially of the reedbeds and natterjack toads. Alice had not visited the beach for 8 years, and was amazed and delighted at the new "Green Beach" of salt marsh and sand dune which is developing there. The new area already supports a variety of specialist flora and fauna, including one rare moth, the Sandhill Rustic. It is developing pools which will hopefully be suitable for natterjack toad breeding in a few years. Lynne and Alice talked about creating temporary pools for the toads in the meantime. The only problem is the salt marsh taking over some areas of mud used as high tide roosts - the birds tend not to come into the marsh which is more liable to disturbance by dogs and people. Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens do a good job in educating users about not disturbing the birds, but cannot control everything! We walked round the CWT reserve at Red Rocks marsh, admiring the spread of Mackay's horsetail, a rare fern, which has greatly increased in recent years along the southern part of boardwalk.

Friday 24 December 2010

Christmas wishes

Merry Christmas from John, our Treasurer, and the rest of the Wirral Wildlife committee.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Mersey Tidal Power

We have received this information from Peter Robertson, Acting Regional Director of the RSPB, and want to let as many people as possible have the chance to comment on the proposals by Peel Renewables to harness energy from the River Mersey.

At our meeting on 9th September we told you that Peel Renewables were drawing up a shortlist of projects. However, at that stage we did not know what was on the shortlist. We were hoping that Peel would seize the opportunity to utilise emerging new technologies that could operate without harming the Mersey Estuary’s important wildlife. Unfortunately Peel have not done this.

We argued from the outset that the aim of the project should not be to maximise energy outputs in such a sensitive wildlife site. However, their shortlist of three options all put energy before wildlife. A full impoundment barrage is worryingly emerging as the frontrunner, though largely because of economic arguments. However, this option would need to be situated in deep water downstream of the ship canal, which would therefore need locks to allow ships to pass, or an expensive extension to the ship canal. A full impoundment barrage would undoubtedly be the most damaging option.

The two remaining options are what they term a “very low head barrage”, one in a similar position to the first barrage, and one in shallower water upstream of the ship canal. What they term very low head would still create a difference in water levels of two to three metres, and would only be 2 metres lower than the full impoundment barrage. It would also be very likely to cause significant damage to the Mersey estuary and the wildlife it supports. We cannot yet say how much damage would be caused, because in spite of the fact that schemes have been ruled out on the basis of economic and technical assessments, no full ecological assessment has yet been undertaken.

Peel are hoping to have a preferred option by March 2011. They have said whichever option they choose they will introduce measures to reduce the damage to the Mersey Estuary, but whatever they do, there will still be a significant reduction in the intertidal habitats, and the amount of time the remaining areas will be exposed for birds to feed on them.

Peel are asking for comments on their stage 2 report before 21 January 2011. The report can be found here

You can make your views known by commenting on their website which some of you have done already, thank you, or by sending an email. Peel are also organising a series of community consultation events which are listed below. If you can make any of these events, please do go along and ask them questions. For example, why have they discounted various options for technical and financial reasons, but have not discounted any for ecological reasons? You could ask them if they have assessed the ecological impacts of each option. Or more specifically, what will the impact of each option be on Dunlin, Teal or Redshank? You could ask if they have fully considered the impacts on flood risk as a similar barrage in the Netherlands seriously increased flood risk. You could ask about the carbon budget, and if construction or carbon locked-up in estuarine sediments have been factored in. Finally, you could ask why they are not waiting for emerging technologies that may be able to harness energy without having a serious ecological impact. A technology known as SMEC (Spectral Mass Energy Converter) appears to have been dropped despite promising energy returns and reduced ecological impacts. We are particularly disappointed that more environmentally friendly options were ruled out, mainly because of their flawed aim to maximise power output. This should never have been the aim within one of Europe’s richest and most protected wildlife sites.

The dates and venues of the community consultation events are:

· Thu 16 Dec 12pm - 6pm, The Bluecoat, Liverpool

· Tue 11 Jan 2pm - 7pm, Ellesmere Port Civic Hall

· Thu 13 Jan 12pm - 6pm, Bromborough Library and Civic Centre

· Sat 15 Jan 10am - 2pm, Britannia Inn, Riverside Drive

· Thu 20 Jan 12pm - 6pm, Stobart Stadium, Widnes

· Sat 22 Jan 10am - 2pm, Eastham Country Park Visitors Centre

· Mon 24 Jan 12pm - 5pm, Garston Community Library