An ambitious £800,000 scheme aims to bring salmon back to the centre of Leeds.
The environmental project aims to return salmon to their old spawning grounds on the River Aire.
Historically the river was rich in salmon but industrial pollution and weirs rendered much of the River Aire lifeless. But improvements have seen wildlife make a comeback.
The project is the grand finale of a two-year Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) campaign called ‘Yorkshire’s Back Garden’. HLF has invested £18million in natural heritage projects.
An HLF spokesman said: “We are delighted to announce support for a project to bring salmon back to the centre of Leeds and beyond, to historic spawning grounds in Gargrave.”
The Environment Agency and the Aire Rivers Trust have received initial support for £800,000 of funding for the ‘Developing the Natural Aire’ (DNAire) project. It will build fish passes on four weirs - the last major barriers to fish movement between the North Sea and Gargrave to spawn.
DNAire will fill the missing gap between Leeds and Gargrave, enabling the return of the iconic fish, as well as allowing coarse fish, such as dace, chub and barbel to move freely up and down the river. David Renwick, Head of HLF in Yorkshire & the Humber, said: “The industrialisation of many areas saw water quality decline and barriers put in place, reducing their value for wildlife and to society. However, in recent years otters have returned, plants are flourishing and kingfishers can be seen catching fish in even the most urban areas. The DNAire Project will allow fish to traverse the four remaining barriers on the River Aire allowing salmon to return.”