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Threat to Kayaking the Fairy Glen 26/11/2013

North Wales' white water kayaking community objected last night to a proposed RWE npower renewables (RWE) hydro electric scheme on the Afon Conwy, that threatens to limit the number of days the Fairy Glen can be paddled.

At the Canolfan Tryweryn near Bala, Billy Langley from RWE, presented plans for the project to mainly local kayakers, although some had travelled from as afar as the Lake District to attend the meeting.

RWE propose to build a weir with a two metre high face on the Conwy river, just above Rhydlanfair Bridge, in order to extract water that will be carried in a buried pipeline around the Conwy Falls and the Fairy Glen, to a turbine house at the foot of the gorge.

Water will only be extracted at certain water levels as stipulated by Natural Resources Wales. The project will have a maximum output of 5MW and it is projected it'll lie idle for a third of the year and run at full power for 15% of it.

The Conwy Falls and the Fairy Glen, at the heart of Snowdonia National Park are among the region's best known natural attractions. For kayakers, the Glen is also considered the holy grail of north Wales paddling and is an internationally respected white water test-piece.

The problem arises for kayakers in that removing water will affect the level of water in the Fairy Glen so reducing the number of days that the gorge is potentially paddleable - mostly when other rivers aren't running.

Kayakers explained to RWE's Hydro Development Engineer the unique nature of the Fairy Glen, in that it is the first river to reach an appropriate level to paddle when it rains and continues to run after the levels have dropped in other local rivers, attracting kayakers from all over the UK, with clear benefits for the local economy. It would no longer be a natural river.

Mr Langley explained that RWE were offering to expand woodland and improve public access to mitigate environmental damage during construction. The Fairy Glen woods and gorge are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) whose humid conditions support a rich variety of mosses, lichens, liverworts and ferns.

RWE plan to build the scheme in partnership with the Voelas Estate and the National Trust who own the land. RWE will run the scheme on a lease for thirty years. Hydro developers are being urged to act now as the generous feed-in tariffs are believed to be subject to degression cuts in 2014. RWE are one of the big six energy companies that has been in the headlines recently for the rising yearly profit margins from customers. Higher bills they explain as being partly due to the government green levies.

Topic: Kayaking in North Wales, Fairy Glen, Afon Conwy.


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