The hydro appears to be in full operation. It regularly stops and starts running and this appears to be related to how much rain there has been and therefore how much water is in the river. This is as was originally spec’d.
When in operation the system takes a lot of water out of the Donich, in fact during moderately wet conditions when things are running and the river is not high, it virtually drains it dry at the point of extraction. This is not the same when the river is in spate as it actually flows through vents in the dam and back into the stream.
Even when the bed of the river is dry at the top, by the time it reaches the waterfalls, it has partially replenished itself from intermediate streams and the immediate impact on the waterfalls does not seem to have been as bad as expected. I’ve no idea what the impact of the removal of that section of waterway on the local wildlife will be – not too extreme I expect as that piece of hillside is not a very rich habitat anyway.
Here are the waterfalls with the river in spate.
The Donich circular path is not in too bad condition, although it remains to be seen how well it survives the winter storms. One thing that is of considerable concern is that one or more people have been taking motorbikes up the path. This is extremely dangerous as the path is very steep and full of blind corners. I asked the planners to arrange for a sign and barrier to be put up, but apparently (although they will ask them), there is no onus on Hydro Plan to do this – so based on past performance, they won’t. We have contacted the Forestry Commission as the landowners to do this as otherwise it is only a matter of time before serious injury is caused. It seems a bit rich to me that the developer hasn’t got to do this as it was them that changed the profile of the path in the first place.
At the bottom, the turbine makes more noise than I had hoped for, but is not catastrophically bad. At the moment there is a large rubber mat with a bag of rubble on top of the metal plate that most of the noise is emerging from – hopefully that will be replaced with something more permanent. The tailrace is basically just another stream running into the river – it makes no perceptible noise apart from rushing water.
On the path restoration front – I have still not seen the formal document from the developer. There was a seeding lorry here the other day but it appears only to have done the area at the bottom – not the bits at the side of the path. I would have hoped the developer would be planting some trees – but even if they don’t, doubtless this being Argyll it will grow back on its own. One piece of good news is that the red squirrels are rebuilding the dreys that were destroyed and have returned to the area as we have seen several now that the noisy work has stopped. All this says more about nature’s ability to restore itself than it does about the way the operation was planned or executed.