Stocksbridge Weir Removal - another step towards river Don’s recovery

6th February 2024

Don Catchment Rivers Trust recently celebrated another milestone in addressing fish passage on the river Don!

Don Catchment Rivers Trust recently celebrated another milestone in addressing fish passage on the river Don!

Shaking off its dirty reputation due to historically poor water quality, the river Don has had wildlife such as otters and kingfisher returning to colonise the catchment once again. Improvements in water quality also led to Atlantic salmon being spotted entering the lower reaches around Doncaster in the late 90s. Since then, there has been an incredibly successful multi-agency effort to address barriers to fish movement (in the form of weirs) along the Don and Atlantic salmon having recently been found returning to breed in their natural spawning grounds in and around Sheffield.

On the most recent fish passage project, Don Catchment Rivers Trust partnered with Yorkshire Water, the Environment Agency, and European Open Rivers Programme – a grant-giving organisation dedicated to restoring endangered European rivers - to restore fish passage in the upper river Don at Stocksbridge weir in Deepcar, Sheffield. To address fish passage at this weir, only part of the weir has been removed, and a section has been retained for its heritage-value as well as providing erosion protection at this bend in the river.

With the barrier removed, fish are once again able to move freely through this stretch of river. This allows species such as brown trout, grayling and bullhead to forage, find shelter, disperse, migrate and breed more effectively, resulting in a greater abundance and more resilient populations. 

When the weir was constructed, it created sluggish canal-like habitat upstream which is not what would naturally be found in a swift flowing river like the Upper Don. By removing a section of the weir, natural flows have once again been restored to a 200m section of river immediately upstream of the weir. This will also clear away fine sediment leaving gravels, spawning habitat and diverse riffle and pool habitats - essential for upland fish species to fully complete their lifecycle.  

Once other fish passage projects go ahead to deal with two other barriers further downstream at Oughtibridge, then migrating Atlantic salmon and sea trout will, in theory, be able to swim up the River Don as far as Tin Mill weir in Deepcar where DCRT also looking to deliver a fish passage project here in the future.

Link to timelapse showing the weir removal - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj5EH7knLUM&t=8s 

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