Fort William to Lundavra Overhead Line Refurbishment
Practecology was commissioned to provide an Ecological Clerk of Works for a 9.6km overhead line upgrade between Fort William and Lundavra. The existing line required an upgrade with the replacement of the conductor and insulator, the excavation and replacement of concrete base protection and the construction of new tower.
Staff from Practecology undertook extensive bird surveys both before and during the clearance of vegetation along the scheme. In several cases vegetation was comprised of dense gorse and stands of silver birch and rowan trees - an ideal habitat in which to conceal nests. Unsurprisingly, thorough searching led to the discovery of chaffinch, meadow pipit and skylark nests. Evening observations from vantage points also established the presence of golden eagle and hen harrier in the Lundavra Valley. Interestingly surveys also confirmed the presence of palmate newt and common lizard along the scheme.
Value of Remote Cameras
In addition to identifying constraints posed by nesting birds, surveys were also carried out for protected species such as badger, otter and pine marten. Remote cameras were used during April and May and sited in habitats such as woodland and on the banks of the Rive Kiachnish. The footage recovered gave a tremendous insight into species which became active at night with red and roe deer, pine marten, otter, fox and badger all being recorded on one camera. Of course footage would not have been complete without an image of a ubiquitous ewe and lamb!
One requirement in which our staff played a leading role was the identification and establishment of routes of access - a tough task given the abundance of peat hags and surface water channels. Practecology undertook consultation with SEPA and ensured all CAR registered water courses were adequately protected. Bog mats or temporary culverts were installed in line with General Binding Rules as necessary. In some cases access routes were only confirmed following a programme of peat probing to establish the risks of damage to the surface vegetation. Monitoring these access routes was undertaken weekly given the high level of rainfall in the Western Highlands which could turn a relatively dry access track into a muddy quagmire after a torrential downpour.
Practecology worked closely with the construction crews, especially where substantial works were carried out. For instance at the site of the new tower, where new access roads were installed and where ground was re-profiled to create a level platform from which the conductor would be pulled thorough the towers.
Building an access road
The access road taking shape
Ground clearance for an EPZ
An EPZ with aluminium trackway as a base
Consultation and Reinstatement
Throughout the project Practecology liaised with the Clients Environmental Advisor, the project ecologist, SEPA, The Forestry Commission, landowners and their agents. This ensured that all parties were up to speed on works and the need for any mitigation could be identified in advance and measures to safeguard habitats and species implemented.
On completion of the project Practecology advised on appropriate methods of habitat reinstatement. This included resowing native seed mixes, transplanting donor turves onto access tracks to accelerate reinstatement and ensuring surface water did not pool in areas of exposed soil. All fences were repaired, temporary access tracks removed and culverts extracted from water courses.