Following concerns about flooding and sediment build-up from one of their tenant farmers, Aberarder Estate contacted SEPA to discuss dredging of the river.
SEPA established that the steep upper catchment of the River Nairn produced a lot of sand and gravel, and because of historic channel modifications, such as the river being straightened and flood banks added, the deposition and flood risk had been made worse while reducing the biodiversity on the river. A concerted team effort redesigned the 'log flue' channel, reinstating meanders.
The team opened up the river by re-meandering parts and removing the embankments, they created more space for the deposition of gravel whilst also creating new habitats for the riverside wildlife and biodiversity.
New wetland areas have come about as part of this work, leading to significant ecological benefits.
After one or two flood events, the changes were remarkable as the river settled into its new course. Even the original flooding concerns have been helped by a better drop for the field drains.
The project was funded by the Water Environment Fund, which is administered by SEPA on behalf of the Scottish Government. The project was delivered in partnership between Aberarder Estate and SEPA.
Aberarder Estate have since applied for an Agri-Environment Climate Scheme as part of the wider Loch Ness Rural Communities collaboration to improve habitat for farmland waders and black grouse. This includes grazing management on the new wetlands and some riparian planting to stabilise the banks and increase habitat diversity.