Friday, 18 July 2014

The Tidal Dee Catchment Partnership

Chinese Mitten Crab, an invasive species. Photo: Wikipedia

This is a group of stakeholders (interested parties) involved in the conservation of the River Dee. It includes statutory organisations such as Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Environment Agency, the local authorities of Flintshire and Wirral and conservation groups with an interest in the Dee e.g. RSPB and Cheshire Wildlife Trust. I represent Wirral Wildlife on the steering group. 

There are three such partnerships covering the whole of the Dee catchment - Upper, Middle and Tidal. The tidal group covers the estuary to Chester weir, while the middle covers Chester to the River Ceriog. The Partnership is a Defra initiative to provide a more local input into the development of the river basin management plans as required under the Water Framework Directive. This sets strict targets for improving water quality by 2027. Failure to achieve the targets could result in the UK Government incurring heavy fines from Europe. 

Of course, the Dee estuary is designated as a Special Protection Area under EU legislation and so has its own conservation objectives. Despite significant effort, it is unlikely we will meet the requirements of the Directive unless additional action is taken.

Current projects under consideration are tackling non-native invasive species such as Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed, monitoring Chinese mitten crab and identifying and tackling marine litter hotspots. Poor water quality in the surface water discharge at West Kirby is a concern which is being investigated by  the Environment Agency, Wirral council and United Utilities but up to now the source has not been identified. Contaminated land and eroding land fill tips and their contribution to water quality on the Welsh side is another concern. Some of the above projects are funded at the moment with additional or future funding being sought, others require funding.

We are now near the end of the first planning cycle (2015), and drawing up the second action plan. This will detail what on the ground activity is needed, by when and by who, and with what resources to achieve the agreed outcomes. Funding is available for a part time Catchment Officer who will co-ordinate projects to improve the Dee and seek funding streams where required. 

Co-ordination of projects, ongoing work and exchange of information to maximise existing efforts to improve the estuary are important aspects of the group’s work.

Tim Ganicliffe

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