“Dirty Spey” update

If I had anticipated that the earlier blog on the dirty water in the upper Spey was going to feature in the Strathy I’d probably have come up with a better title, but as it has made the printed press I thought an update would be useful.

I was at Kincraig earlier in the week where it was obvious that the problem was ongoing. The reason for it taking so long to clear is the large volume of water in the reservoir above Spey Dam which was completely discoloured. With the recent dry weather the inflowing burns and River Spey are low and there will be little exchange of water through the loch. A good spate is required to flush the loch and clear the sediment lying in the upper river. It is unusual for events of this nature to have such a prolonged impact but then it is unusual for lochs to become completely discoloured to this extent.

My colleague Duncan Ferguson sent me some photos of the Allt Druidh, which has its source in the Lairig Ghru, showing evidence of road washout and highly mobile gravel following the recent heavy rain that fell in that area on the same weekend as the Markie Burn event.

Road washout beside Allt Druidh

Evidence of recent gravel mobility

It was events like these that caused the brief period of coloured water in the lower river last week.

“Allt” is a gaelic term for a burn or stream (see here) but I read someone recently refer to it as a term meaning a burn with an impassable waterfall. I can think of many burns called “Allt….” that don’t have impassable waterfalls but I’d be interested to the views of others. If you can shed any light on this matter please let me know.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Brian Shaw Author at 7:40 am

    Thanks for the reply Ian,

    We are just heading out electrofishing now so I’ll try and reply to you with more detail later. The new arched culvert on the burn below Knockando House has improved fish numbers in the burn but as you point out the area upstream is limited although the gain in terms of length of accessible habitat was I think greater than you mention. The benefit in the Ballintomb Burn works was the most limited of all the projects, others had a greater impact.

    As the biologist on the Spey I have the privilege of learning about and seeing a great deal of the river and the blog is one way I can share that with others. I will of course always try to be positive but on the other hand I have to tell things as they are.


  2. Ian Gordon at 12:14 am

    Hi Brian, Speaking of impassable waterfalls -I am about to write an article on this and if anyone has them, would like to know the answers to the following –

    1. What has been the benifit to the fishery of the half million or so of euro [or tax payers cash] spent on clearing those burns and building fishpasses over the past 10 or so years? Do we have any definitive answers or information on the success or otherwise?
    2. The experiment on the Battan Burn, I think at least 25k was spent on this back in the 1990s and was hailed in the local press at the time as an innovative breakthrough in the managment of salmon fisheries. Compared to the original electro fishing, how many more fish is this stretch of the burn now producing?
    3. The burn below knockando house, are there any more fish between the expensive new fish pass and the impassable waterfall 150 meters above it?

    Looking forward to hear the answers to this as they will help this first in a series of articles I’m thinking of writing on what has happened over the past 20 years and how things are likely to progress moving on.

    I like the blog Brian, all very good and informitive, compared with what we endured for all those years, a real breath of positive fresh air.

    Best Regards


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