Catchment restoration fund
The Catchment Restoration Fund (CRF) is as nationwide fund designated to improve the health of river ecosystems via habitat restoration and pollution reduction measures. Started in 2012 and intended to run over three years, the fund intends to tackle issues highlighted under the Water Framework Directive. The Westcountry Rivers Trust has been allocated over £4 million to lead and deliver restoration works within the Westcountry. This has been split over 5 projects designed to target specific issues within each catchment.
Axe & Exe River Improvement Project (AERIP)
In 2012, the Axe & Exe River Improvement Project was allocated funds from the Catchment Restoration Fund to improve the Health of the rivers Axe and Exe in east Devon. Previously, Under the Water Framework Directive guidelines these rivers had been identified as ‘moderate’ and ‘poor’ respectively. In order to improve the rivers to good ecological status under the Water framework Directive, a number of areas were identified as possible areas for improvement. From this a number of outcomes were generated, these looked at a number of factors including:
- Water quality – More consistent supply of better water quality
- Improved biodiversity – increased habitat and biodiversity and re-naturalisation
- Social – improved leisure environment for leisure and angling
- Economic – Improved fisheries and spawning for commercial stocks
- Flood attenuation and management – Improved soil management
- Counteract Climate Change – Carbon sequestration through wetland sinks
In the two years this project has been running, all targets have been met or exceeded. A number of restoration techniques have been employed including
- Fencing of the river banks – Where agricultural input is a causative issue of failure under WFD (phosphate), targeted riparian fencing along with associated drinking points will be constructed or alternative supply provided by drinking troughs.
- Fish pass instillation
- Gravel cleaning and introduction of gravel – Restoration of spawning habitat by means of gravel works, using graded gravels from both local quarries and by grading and recycling gravel removed from the river for flood defence purposes. These works will directly help to increase spawning rates and survival of the early stages of salmon, trout and other fish such as bullheads
- Events and school visits – engaging primary school children to rear salmon fry in the classroom whilst educating about preserving the natural environment.
- Selective coppicing to promote a diversity of bankside vegetation and prevent excessive riverbank erosion. This will be linked with coarse woody debris introduction to provide improved instream fish habitat.