Honddu weir removal provides boost for vulnerable fish

A Natural Resources Wales (NRW) project to remove a redundant weir on the River Honddu, near Brecon, has opened up 20km of habitat to help salmon reach important breeding grounds.  

The weir was constructed in the 1960’s to monitor and regulate river flows to reduce flood risk. But it has posed a significant obstacle for salmon and other migratory fish, who swim upstream in search of gravel beds to spawn. These barriers also slow down juvenile fish as they move back downstream on their journeys to the sea.

Advances in flow measurement techniques mean that some weirs are no longer needed and can be removed to return rivers to a more natural state.  Barriers to fish migration is one of the main reason why rivers fail to achieve good ecological status as defined by Water Framework Directive regulations.

With collaboration and support from Powys County Council and Bannau Bryncheiniog National Park Authority, the project has also delivered improvements for the local community. This includes widening an access footpath and installing new benches for people to enjoy the views out onto the river.

Dr Ben Wilson Fisheries Principal Advisor for NRW, said:

“The scale and rate of biodiversity loss across the nation is accelerating, impacting on species who depend upon our natural resources.
“Our rivers and the species they support are under increasing pressure from climate change and pollution. As a result iconic species like salmon are unfortunately becoming rarer, and we need to take urgent action to support them.
“One of the best things we can do is remove any artificial barriers that stop them from making their way up, and downstream.  Removing this weir gives salmon more access to the cool, clean water and good quality habitat they need to survive. “

Stephen Butcher, Countryside & Outdoor Recreation Officer from Powys County Council says:

“This is a very popular area for both residents and visitors alike, with circular walks and active travel routes throughout the woodland both along the riverbank and through the wooded valley.
“Collaborative working has meant that multiple benefits were delivered, with Powys County Council providing felled diseased trees, which were then utilised and placed to help reinforce the new embankment.
“Benches have been installed for people to enjoy the newly created views and with the widening of the access paths now means that residents and visitors have greater accessibility to the top end of the Priory Groves woodland. These benefits have proved popular with the local residents.”

Planning for the project began in 2019, with the project completed this summer.

The total cost was approximately £250,000 and was funded by the Welsh Government Nature and Climate Emergencies Capital Programme . The programme supports a number of environmental priorities including peatland restoration, metal mine remediation, fisheries, water quality and national forests.

This financial year, NRW has committed to spend £25m through the Welsh Government Nature and Climate Emergencies Capital Programme, including £1.2m for fisheries projects across Wales.