As a resident of Bedlington for 60-plus years, I have read letters and articles with concern as local residents try to save Humford Dam from being destroyed by the Northumberland Rivers Trust and Environment Agency.
Despite reasoned arguments for saving the dam, it appears that the Environment Agency will not be deterred in going ahead with its plans.
To quote its fisheries technical officer: “Our surveys provide evidence that show Humford Dam is having a major negative impact on the fish in the river. It disrupts the migration of…. eels, trout, sea trout and possibly salmon.”
I note there is no threat from flooding and no risk to public health or safety.
How strange all of this is.
The dam and its fish pass have been there for well over 100 years and it is still fit for purpose. In all that time the above creatures have managed to navigate it without problem, using the same fish pass – until now.
In the 1950s and 1960s the Blyth was one of the best trout rivers in Northumberland, and I can still remember seeing hundreds of elvers (we called them darnies) going upstream every year.
Yes, it could do with being maintained a bit better, but since I retired ten years ago I have checked it every morning as I walk my dogs and, together with a few stalwarts, we make sure it is clear in time for the annual fish run.
Only six weeks ago, in less than one hour on a Saturday morning, two of us counted dozens of sea trout coming upstream via the fish pass. They managed it easily, as they do every year.
The dam certainly isn’t the stumbling block that it is being portrayed. The fact that there are fewer permanent fish in the river is obviously due to other factors.
Perhaps it could be the Hartford Sewerage Works pumping raw sewerage into the river near the stepping stones each time we get heavy rain, or the fact that angling clubs have been restocking at the start of the fishing season with sterile fish. Poaching is another reason.
As for eels, the global decline in the European eel is well known. It is a man-made problem that goes way beyond the dam on the river Blyth. Start with the Sargasso Sea in the mid Atlantic – their breeding ground.
In conclusion, I would like to ask our government officials what is the real reason for getting rid of the dam?
How can they justify spending the thousands of pounds of public money that they seem so intent upon?