Have a look at the newspaper cutting below from the local rag, discount the overdramatic headline and focus on the proposal to lower the level of St Mary's Loch. By how much do they want to lower it? We don't know because in the fashion of 1960s Moscow no one has told us, but figures being bandied about are between 2 and 10 feet!
Normally when such drastic proposals are drafted, at the same time "Stakeholders" are contacted for their views. This has not happened! Yes a steering group has been convened to weigh up and take forward the proposal but who is exactly on this panel? The list contains some august bodies such as Borders Regional Council, Scottish National Heritage, SEPA, Scottish Water, a representative of the Riparian owners group, the River Tweed Commission and an Access officer who apparently will represent the interests of the angling club, the sailing club and the Tibbie Shiels Inn! UNACCEPTABLE!
The access officer I am sure is a jolly decent fellow but none of the affected user groups know of him/her, none of us have had contact with this person. What does this person know about fishing sailing or the hospitality trade? We don't want someone vacillating on our behalf using flimsy generalised knowledge. Bottom line is it most certainly won't do, a person unbeknown to us postulating on what is in our best interests! Only the user groups themselves know what is in their best interests we know what is best for us! The start to this consultation process has been an unmitigated shambles! The "steering" group has already met and the three user groups know not what has been said, it is but a comedy of errors!
Naturally the user groups are incensed at being sidelined and with this in mind a meeting has been arranged with the flood prevention Project manager of SBC to try and make some sense out of this fiasco! I canvassed a few of the locals to get their views and all were vehemently opposed to the proposal to lower the level of the loch!
Rodono has spent a considerable amount of money building a slipway and pier which will be rendered useless if the level is dropped. All our stocks of fish rely on the margins of the loch for food and when they disappear so do the fish! Our Arctic Charr project is at severe risk if the levels are dropped by a significant amount. The loch would be in danger of becoming a quarry with a deep hole of water in the middle. Imagine the impact on visitors who come across countless signs stating "Danger deep water" all around the margins! Tourism relies heavily on the fact that the loch is a most beautiful place it would be much less so devoid of much of its water!
If we look at the problem of flooding it is clear that action requires to be taken. It looks to me that only one "solution" is being considered in spite of the word proposals being referred to often in the SBC flood prevention document, has the "solution" ALREADY been decided?
If we examine the problem we can see that two structures above the area flooded in November 2009 hold millions of gallons of water, Megget Reservoir and St Mary's Loch, both under the control of Scottish Water, both with regulating systems to control the outflow of water. To look at the problem on a household level – you are filling the bath and the tap gets stuck what do you do? Two choices either watch the water lap over the sides of the bath and prepare to deal with the inevitable flooding that will ensue or pull the plug out and call a plumber! It's a simplistic analogy it is however pertinent, but moving back to Megget and St Mary's, both are full as is normal in winter and everyone's happy. But then heavy rain is forecast but more, heavy nonstop rain for a protracted period of time reinforced by WEATHER WARNINGS!
Going back to the bath analogy you can sit back and watch the water lap over the sides of the structures pouring into already swollen rivers and cause the misery of property flooding or you can open the regulators on hearing about the predicted downpour causing a heavy flow of water in the outlet river, but no flooding and as a bonus create capacity in both Megget and St Mary's loch to accommodate as much of the downpour as is possible, it might not stop the flooding completely but surely it will mitigate it to a great extent.Where does the need to permanently lower the level of St Mary's Loch (a SSSI) come from?
Water flow management is what we are seeking, not indolence and hiding behind ambiguous wording contained in statutory instruments! I had a good blether with Elliot and Paul today both excellent anglers and down to earth no nonsense types. Their thoughts – lower the levels of Megget and St Mary's around October, maintain this level through until March and also employ the above procedures if it is deemed that flooding is a possibility. It makes a lot of sense to me and many others. Why proposals along this line have not been developed will be our first question to the flood prevention team at our meeting. Both bodies of water have regulators why not use them to regulate and control the outflow. Now there's a novel idea!
Using the above means that the fishing will not be affected, and the sailing activities will not be affected.
The proposal being focussed on by the SMLWG (St Mary's loch working group) would have devastating implications for us the lower the level the more serious the consequences and we cannot stand back and allow it to be implemented without having common sense voices heard! The fight back starts this coming week!
Photo - What Peter collected after the desecrators left!
To the 6 individuals from Wishaw who were suspected of leaving a heap of rubbish behind them. You must have mistaken the sign saying St Mary's Loch for one that says rubbish Tip, because thats how you have treated the place! Here is a photo of what was collected by the loch keeper after you left. You had your chance to state your case you did not do so, consequently all of you are barred from fishing on the lochs!