Migrating eels have been given a helping hand thanks to an innovating engineering project.
Highways PFI contractor Island Roads, the Environment Agency, Arc Consulting, and Artecology have all combined to create an ‘eelevator’ to help migrating eels navigate the watercourse beneath Holbrooke’s Bridge at Bouldnor, near Yarmouth.
Nationally, eel numbers have declined in recent years and one theory for this is that they are unable to navigate man-made structures such as weirs and culverts on watercourses. The ‘eelevator’ includes a series of textured tiles produced to help ease the eels’ passage upstream.
The conservation work at Holbrooke’s Bridge – part of a wider Island Roads scheme to upgrade the structure – will mean the local eel population is able to continue its journey unimpeded.
“This type of ‘eel-pass’ assists the eels by providing a bespoke textured surface along which they can gain purchase and navigate more easily,” said Nigel George of Artecology.
“The ‘Holbrooke Eelevator’ is a series of textured tiles with a ‘Hearts and Darts’ pattern which are fixed to the concrete surface of the river bed. At the downstream end of the bridge, the tiles are set in to a bespoke ladder created and installed to provide passage between the nearby pond up to the culvert under the bridge.
“We are hopeful this installation will provide a new opportunity for help the dwindling eel population flourish. The sculpted pattern is designed also to draw people’s attention to the river and raise awareness of the European Eel.”
Jo Huett, Island Roads structures project manager said: “We were delighted to work as part of a local team to help a project and enhance the local ecology. Much of our work involves helping pedestrians and motorists get about smoothly and safely but we enjoyed the challenge of helping the eel population also enjoy safe passage.”
The Holbooke project has been dedicated to Dave Hunter from the Environment Agency, a friend and colleague to Arc and Artecology, who sadly passed away earlier this year.
Claire Hector, of Artecology added: “Dave’s passion for conserving eel populations made this a perfect way to mark his work that inspired many others and it was a pleasure to be joined by his wife, Jacqui and son, Wills during the installation.”