February 16, 2017
Welcome to 2017. In February 2014 , we were all worried about flooding, the River Colne was fast reaching its highest water levels last seen in 2000. Three years on and we are talking about drought conditions. It doesn’t matter how long you have been running a fishery, every time you think you have seen every obstacle coming your way a new one will always present itself. It is the very reason why we should all share our experiences and learn from our mistakes and our successes.
The Colne Valley Fisheries Consultative was set up many years ago for this very reason, today the CVFC Committee comprises of a very strong team of dedicated people who volunteer their valuable time on behalf of others running fisheries and managing angling clubs. Between us we have a vast wealth of experience and knowledge. This means we do get involved in the bigger picture and try to tackle issues that affect all fisheries and angling clubs operating in the Colne Valley as well as some national issues. For those of you who do not regularly attend CVFC meetings this newsletter is intended to bring you up to date on the many initiatives we have been involved in during the past year and inform you of the new challenges that are on the horizon.
Some issues of course are beyond our control and a good example is the Water Framework Directive (WFD). The jury is still out whether Brexit will see the UK relax its attitude towards the WFD. It is, after all, essentially European Legislation. If this legislation is relaxed many of the projects to improve water quality in our rivers may well be shelved or delayed. The River Colne is already in a poor condition along certain stretches and it will be a sad day for the Colne Valley if this decline is allowed to continue.
Action to rectify anything in this world usually comes at a cost. With this Newsletter we have included an invoice for the current CVFC financial year, if you are the secretary of your club please pass this on to your treasurer for payment, we have left the invoice blank for you to fill in as required.
You will read elsewhere in this newsletter about some of the work being undertaken by what is now a team of eight dedicated and committed CVFC Committee members. At any given time it could be your club that is, or will be, benefitting directly from those efforts whether they be related to invasive species, pollution control, predator control, water abstraction, commercial developments or the host of other potential activity. Countless hours are spent on your behalf attending meetings (some we have to travel long distances to attend), researching issues or simply undertaking the hard slog of walking the valley recording outfalls/pollutions etc. All of that comes at a cost and whilst the Committee is prepared to give our time free of charge it is clearly not acceptable that expenses incurred are not reimbursed. That however has been exactly the case to date apart from some items such as refreshments provided at meetings we host. So, attending a Cormorant related meeting with Natural England in Birmingham for example clearly comes at a cost as does a trip into Hampshire to learn about Otter habit and activity. These and many more examples are currently funded solely by the individuals on the Committee. A whole fishery membership subscription would not come close to covering the cost of either of the trips mentioned which is indicative of how low they actually are.
The expertise needed to produce our online pollution monitoring and outfall recording facility - which is now the envy of some very large organisations – could never have been achieved on grounds of cost if we were not fortunate enough to have one of our Committee capable and prepared to write the programmes. We need to purchase, repair or replace equipment. A single kit for river fly monitoring (an essential tool in pollution monitoring) would account for the subs from two clubs. The compact camera with GPS facility that we need for recording outfalls and pollution incidents accounts for the subs from four clubs. The water quality monitoring we need for early response to pollution incidents would account for all the subs for two years……..you should be getting our drift that £50 goes nowhere so additional donations (which will be fully accounted for) would be gratefully received. At present our meeting venues come at nil cost. That is due to change.
We are asking elsewhere how you want us to keep you informed but whether that is done by newsletter or meeting, time and expense will be incurred. We have chosen just a few simple examples but enough hopefully to demonstrate that continued funding is vital.
To really take CVFC forward, be effective and maintain the reputation we are building with organisations that really matter (Thames Water, Affinity Water, Groundwork South, Environment Agency, Colne Valley CIC, Three Rivers District Council and many more) yet more robust funding will be required and that is something else the Committee is spending time trying to achieve.
During the summer of 2015 the River Colne suffered a major fish kill just below Watford. Initial investigations concluded that it probably occurred because of a combination of factors which happened at the same time, low water levels, low oxygen and run off into the river that contained contamination all contributed to two fishing club’s worst nightmare, dead fish of all species and sizes floating down the river Colne. Years of habitat enhancement to recruit future fish populations all gone in a flash.
Members of the CVFC Committee decided a number of issues needed further investigation and closer monitoring of the river was required. We were not prepared to roll over and do nothing. The Colne is the lifeblood of the valley and whether you fish it or not it has a major influence on every body of still and running water in the Colne Valley. You only have to look back to the flooding in the valley during February 2014 to understand the importance of the river.
Water Quality and Pollution Monitoring Water quality is fundamental for good river health as it sustains ecological processes that support native fish populations, vegetation and birdlife. We all depend on the quality of our water for drinking, irrigation, fishing and recreation. With this in mind, CVFC has undertaken steps to continually monitor the water quality in the river Colne and respond quickly to any incidents of pollution. More on this will be published later in the year.
We monitor the river Colne for specific types of aquatic life (invertbrates) and their numbers. This information is subsequently used by the Environment Agency to take action where appropriate.
River fly monitoring is done regularly by trained CVFC officers, where three key groups of riverflies are monitored: the up-wing flies or mayflies (Ephemeroptera), caddisflies or sedges (Trichoptera) and stoneflies (Plecoptera). The numbers counted, often several hundred from a small sample, are compared to the minimum expected. From this, CVFC can continually monitor the heath of the river and report anything unusual.
Surface water (mostly rain) flows into the river Colne, normally via pipes known as Surface Water Outflows (SWO). This water is collected from house/road drains and park/sports ground ditches etc. and is normally clean; however, it can also include water from incorrect plumbing (misconnected washing machines, showers etc.) and flood water (sewage overflow). In some cases, builders incorrectly connect toilets to surface water pipes rather than sewer pipes, and these misconnections can go unnoticed for several years.
An initiative known as ROMP (River Outflow Monitoring Programme) has been started by CVFC to map all the SWO’s down the river Colne from Watford to Wraysbury, including other water courses that enter the river. (See website link) http://www.cvfc.org.uk/ROMP.html
The mapping part of this process is well underway. Over 170 outflows into the river Colne to date have now been identified and mapped and are detailed in a private area on the CVFC website, most have images attached. Thames Water have given their full support for this project and have provided us with useful data. Other organisations are becoming aware of the importance of this project and are giving us support. At some point, Rod Cutler, a new member of the CVFC committee who is mapping the outfalls, will contact your club secretary and request a supervised visit to photograph and map outfalls that enter the river or streams which your club own or lease.
The next step is to ask members of the public such as dog walkers, hikers and bird watchers to monitor these numerous outfalls and look out for any signs of pollution, water discolouration and inform us either directly or via the new feature on the CVFC website.
Members of the public will only be able to access parts of the river where there is public access, hence we will need co-operation from angling clubs to monitor outfalls that fall within private fishing areas by your own club members. Most angling clubs are doing this anyway as part of standard fishery management practice.
It is important to identify any pollution as quickly as possible so the appropriate authority can resolve it. Often pollution goes unnoticed and is simply washed down the river, by which time the damage is done and the source remains unknown. This is particularly true after heavy rain.
The work CVFC does is not without cost and relies heavily on volunteers and funding. If you can spend a small amount of time monitoring a section of the river we would welcome your help to keep the river Colne clean and free from pollution.
With the increase in number of houses being built in the Colne Valley water abstraction to supply commercial and residential properties will always be under scrutiny. The Environment Agency are the licensing body for all water abstraction whilst Affinity Water are the biggest water abstractors in the Colne Valley supplying potable water to our homes and businesses. CVFC has recently been involved in talks with HS2 and their consultants since we became aware of potential increases in water abstraction licences by Affinity Water because of the route of HS2 through the Colne Valley. If your lakes are located close to water abstraction pumping stations owned by Affinity Water (even if they are not on the route of HS2) please contact one of the CVFC committee members listed at the end of this Newsletter and we will talk to you in detail about this complex issue. Suffice to say talks are ongoing with HS2, their consultants and Affinity Water and we will keep everyone informed especially if new or increased water abstraction licence applications go through the consultation process whereby you will be invited to comment.
It is probably true to say that most anglers associate HMWT with some activities they do not agree with. The re-establishment of otters being the most common example. CVFC is aware of this potential conflict of interest and have been liaising closely with the Wildlife Trusts for Herts and Middlesex and Bucks/Berks and Oxon. We have assisted them in their Water Vole conservation project which includes monitoring and trapping of the destructive American Mink. The discussions and collaboration with the Wildlife Trusts have also allowed us to engage in frank and meaningful discussions about otters and cormorants within the Valley and their impact on valuable fish stocks.
We know we can never win the argument that otters do not have a place in our fragile environment but by working together with the Wildlife Trusts on common ground we can at least build a credible case for issues we don’t agree on and keep the dialogue ongoing. We must respect that HMWT manage huge areas of land and water in Hertfordshire and Middlesex including some waters in the Colne Valley hence it is essential we work together with them. Often this involves attending meetings that we would otherwise not attend for example the recent Water Vole conference.
The Colne Catchment Action Network is the group established to deliver catchment based actions to improve the rivers of the Colne system and enhance biodiversity and habitats for fish, other fauna and flora. You can see what its aims are on the website http://www.colnecan.org.uk/ .
After an extensive public consultation about what stakeholders wanted to achieve for their river CVFC was appointed to the working group to represent all stakeholders as it was the only catchment wide organisation capable of doing so and because we brought with us experience of preparing the
Funding is always an issue in new structures and initially we have had limited funding, to cover the set up and admin costs of the team, from Defra. This has not been consistent and there appears to be a short term attitude in government to this commitment to environmental improvements to our river.
ColneCAN has successfully bid for funds and started to remove some redundant weirs to improve fish migration and disperse silt build ups. These works are being done in carefully chosen locations where other works can follow the primary objective of unblocking the river. Some works have involved complete removal but in most instances weirs are being notched to improve river flows and install fish passes.
If you are planning works on your river stretches you can log the project on the website and add to the work being done by many others across the valley. ColneCAN is led by Groundwork South and ties in across much of the catchment with the work being done by the Colne Valley Park. All the existing river interest groups in the catchment are members of ColneCAN. There is active participation from both Affinity Water and Thames Water as well as from Hertfordshire County Council and other local government authorities, the Environment Agency,
All the projects being pursued by CVFC come to fruition through ColneCAN. It is the hub for environmental efforts in the valleys of the Colne.
Check out the website and see what is happening near your waters.
Some of you will remember a few years ago, probably 2009, when CVAC, as was, was meeting at Les Webber’s place in Wraysbury and the question was asked about the numbers of Environment Agency fishery enforcement officers available in the Thames Valley.
That question lead to the development of an idea to support the full-time EA guys with a special constable force of volunteers assisting and informing the EA of concerns about illegal fishing, illegal fish removals and other nefarious activities by the waters. That idea became the Volunteer Bailiff Service (VBS) organised jointly by the Angling Trust and the EA. The Colne Valley was part of the original pilot for the scheme started in 2012.
Over the years since and in the face of some stubborn resistance from parts of the EA that pilot has now become a national reality with more than 360 volunteers giving their time to support the EA in enforcement of fisheries laws and by laws. Under the leadership of Dilip Sarkar MBE, an experienced police officer and life-long angler, nearly every police service in the country has now signed up to the various initiatives being driven by volunteers to improve fisheries enforcement and combat rural crime under the FESS banner.
On 1 November 2015, the Angling Trust Fisheries Enforcement Support Service (FESS) was created as a result of the EA awarding the Trust the National Angling Services Contract, delivering a number of outcomes. The FESS, which is not operational but which supports fisheries enforcement through raising awareness and encouraging a multi-agency approach, comprises six Regional Enforcement Managers (REM) – all of whom are also highly experienced retired police officers. The FESS alsoincludes the ‘Building Bridges’ Project, aimed at educating and integrating migrant anglers, and the VBS.
At the time of writing (13 January 2017), the REMs are working on developing the extended Phase 1 VBS around the country and in every part of England. Regular induction days are in all six regions to train volunteers in supporting the EA full time officers meaning that Operation CLAMP DOWN – the multi-agency focus on illegal fishing in the coarse close season – will be a national initiative for the first time. In the meantime, the Angling Trust and Environment Agency has started the process to select small numbers of volunteers to elevate to Phase 2 in SE, as a pilot project.
Phase 2 is the training and warranting of volunteers to work alongside the EA officers in active patrolling and licence checking, freeing the EA guys to do some serious policing of waterside crime. All this from a question asked at a CVFC meeting. How much are you missing by not being there?
As the invasive species list grows so do the problems associated with many of the species starting to impact on fishing and the aquatic environment. Floating Pennywort is not a new addition but it is still having a significant impact on parts of the River Colne with one or two angling clubs have reported some sections as unfishable. Please remember if you do remove some from your section of river or lake make sure nothing can escape downstream or it will regenerate. It may come as a surprise to many anglers that it does establish itself in lakes on occasions and consequently it is very difficult to remove efficiently.
Signal crayfish is another example of an invasive species that has established itself through England, Wales and parts of Scotland. Some research work is being carried out in our Universities around the country but it doesn’t seem to be a co-ordinated approach. Each research project appears to be studying a different aspect of the species.
No one seems to have the answer to the total eradication of the species and inevitably whatever is done in the future will require significant funding. Recently it was reported that burrowing crayfish had cost Magdalen College thousands of pounds after they eroded an Oxford riverbank and caused a wall to partially collapse. Repair work included rebuilding the wall with new concrete supports underwater and trench sheeting, a very costly exercise. If this example becomes the norm where riverside properties or structures are at risk perhaps more funding will become available to achieve the obvious solution.
The River Colne relies on clean water being discharged from sewage treatment works to maintain water levels. Blackbirds Farm STW (above Watford) has been offline for nearly eighteen months and low water levels in the River Colne above Watford have been recorded well below average. Below average rainfall for the past six months hasn’t helped the river either and if you add into the mix there are over forty surface water outfalls entering the river around Watford town centre the potential for problems in the river is a very real issue. In the past few weeks Blackbirds Farm STW has begun discharging clean water back into the Colne and is in the process of becoming fully online again. All we need now is more rain to get back to normal levels.
Maple Lodge STW is one of the largest STW’s in the Colne Valley and discharges a large volume of clean water back into the Grand Union Canal before it splits with the River Colne again. All STW’s have discharge parameters which they must comply with to ensure the quality of water being discharged is not detrimental to the receiving water. As you will all know sometimes this process goes wrong and there have been several recorded incidents where STW’s have exceeded permitted parameters. CVFC has been in talks with Thames Water over the past few months and a wide range of issues has been discussed with them at Director level.
Suffice to say it is extremely important that we work together with Thames Water to ensure they inform us when things go wrong and we communicate with them and report any damage caused when problems arise. This will of course often involve the Environment Agency who oversee the process but ultimately it is anglers on the ground that see the first signs of problems.
Please educate your angling club members to report pollution at the very early stage. Reporting it at club meetings several weeks after the event is effectively closing the door after the horse has bolted.
CVFC will be arranging a visit for members to see the Maple Cross STW this spring/summer to view their operations first hand. (Details to follow.)
Hopefully this short Newsletter will give you a taste of some of the issues CVFC has been involved on over the past year on your behalf, it is impossible to document every subject here. You may think that most of these subjects have nothing to do with your club or how you run your fishing venues or you know the answers anyway. The question is; could you or your committee be running a more successful angling club if you were better informed. For example, why are your water levels dropping is it because of low rainfall, a STW offline or increased water abstraction because of the HS2 project. If you don’t come to CVFC meetings you might never get to know the answer and by the way this example is a real issue.
Please note our next CVFC meeting scheduled for 23rd February is cancelled but the next CVFC meeting and AGM is on 20th April. We look forward to seeing you there.
Colne Valley Fisheries Consultative
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