‘Pearls in Peril’ LIFE project – In-stream restoration on the River Dee at Mar Lodge car bank

Improvements in the River Dee as part of a £3.5 million Pearls in Peril LIFE project to improve habitat for freshwater pearl mussels and salmon are set to go ahead from 21st September.

Up to 16 cars, tonnes of concrete waste, rocks and boulders will be removed from the bank of the River Dee to reduce the risk of pollution to the rare freshwater pearl mussel and to salmon.

In 1984 a 100m gap in the riverbank on the Mar Lodge Estate, now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, was filled with a range of materials including trees, old cars, and large quantities of concrete, rocks and boulders. There is now erosion around the car barrier and the facing is beginning to degrade. With its corrugated iron facing, this stretch of riverbank is an eyesore on the otherwise unspoiled landscape, clearly visible from the Linn O’Dee road.

David Frew, Property Manager for Mar Lodge Estate said:  “The car embankment has been a blot on an otherwise iconic landscape for many years, and it will be fantastic to see this restoration work finally take place.  The project demonstrates how partnership working between landowners and public agencies can deliver real results for the environment.”

The waste that makes up the car barrier will be removed from the riverbank and the cars taken away to a scrapyard.  The bank will be re-profiled to a more natural shape to blend in with the surrounding landscape.

The car bank project was initiated by the Dee Catchment Partnership, and the work is now being carried out as part of the Pearls in Peril project (PIP), co-ordinated by Scottish Natural Heritage and working in partnership with the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board and the River Dee Trust.  Susan Cooksley of the Dee Catchment Partnership said: “It’s been a real team effort over the last seven years to get to this stage. The Partnership is delighted that the works are going ahead through the PIP project and are looking forward to seeing this section of the upper Dee restored to a much more natural condition.”

On the Dee, work by PIP includes planting woodland along 70km of riverbank to protect against the effects of future climate change; installing 45km of buffer strips in the middle catchment to protect watercourses from soil and nutrient runoff; an education programme in local schools throughout the catchment; and removing unnatural structures from the river, including the ‘car embankment’.

The PIP project will result in a wide range of environmental benefits for the whole river system by improving water quality and helping restore natural flow patterns.

Freshwater pearl mussels are rare molluscs that live in the gravel beds of clean rivers. They feed by filtering water and removing fine particles and so help to keep our rivers clean. The mussels are critically endangered and Scotland is one of their few remaining strongholds.

River Dee Car embedded in bank

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