SPARC Topic Guidance Notes NO.12 Long Term Maintenance and Sustainability 12: Long Term Maintenance and Sustainability Project Initiatives and Tools Long term maintenance of river corridors and their habitats is a challenge that all SPARC partners have faced. The following solutions have been used to address the challenge: • Involving farmers and landowners in grazing plans in order to maintain habitats. In the Halkaer river corridor and the Langenhagen site on the Wietze Stream agreements have been negotiated with local farmers to undertake site maintenance. In Halkaer the agreements is generally for 1.5 animals per hectare, adjusted as necessary for the numbers of grazing animals needed to maintain the nature value of the wetlands. Grazing is viewed as the best maintenance tool for wetlands. In Langenhagen, the municipality has also set aside money for the maintenance in case there are any issues with the agreement. Maximizing the benefits of grazing – Beckingham Marshes (England) • Involving public sector partners in long term maintenance. For example in the Runde catchment, the Dutch State Forestry Organisation may take on long term maintenance responsibilities of new watercourses and their surroundings where this is land open to the public. This has happened at sites around the Ruiten Aa connection in the Runde catchment, near Ter Apel. • Contracting out maintenance to a private business. For example parts of the waste water system at Larjean Gardens will be leased to a private contractor. In Langenhagen an agreement has been made with the local farmer who will maintain the area where the river has been re-meandered through grazing. • Involving NGOs and voluntary and community groups in maintenance activity. For example County Wildlife Trusts are involved in the management and maintenance of green infrastructure open spaces such as the Barnes Meadow wetland site on the River Nene at Northampton. Sheep Grazing at Bargerveen (Netherlands) • Ensuring that where grants are given to third parties to carry out projects in the river corridor that they can demonstrate that they have the financial and labour resources to undertake ongoing project maintenance. For example, the River Nene Regional Park will only provide funding to site specific projects where the local partner is willing and able to take on maintenance responsibilities. Good design at the start of projects can also minimise the volume and cost of maintenance. For example: • Design for re-meandering of the Ganer and Omme rivers in Ringkjoebing was intended to minimise maintenance. The meanders were designed to allow the river to create it’s own path. • Where buildings form part of a project, there are opportunities to design and build in sustainability features such as grey water systems (recycling rain water runoff within the building e.g. to flush toilets), hydraulic water pumping of water and solar panels. For example Top Lodge in the River Nene Regional Park area has a visitor centre, shop, café and office complex which utilises a grey water system. • In Larjean Gardens, the water from the cleaning ponds is being used to water plants in the Gardens rather than feed into the river corridor. Benefits • Detailed discussion about site conditions, design and planning with farmers, water boards and others at an early stage in a project helps in the development of long term low maintenance solutions which farmers and landowners can take responsibility for. • Partners often recognise the need for long term maintenance and consideration of sustainability issues early in project development to ensure that a project is viable. Being asked to identify maintenance processes in a funding application therefore helps focus an organisation and ensures that it does have a maintenance plan. • Contracting out long term management responsibilities gives security that the management will be delivered. • Where local communities use river corridors for recreation, it can be easier to gain support for activities and events that will contribute towards maintenance as local people realise the value they place on the facility. Issues • Although it is possible to design low maintenance river habitat schemes, some maintenance requirements will remain. For example weeds in the river may still need to be cut regularly to maintain river flows and avoid build up of water on surrounding land. • Although maintenance arrangements may be put in place, these can be upset if a partner withdraws from the arrangements. • Small organisations may not have the resources to take on maintenance responsibilities which may result in them being unable to carry out projects. • Establishing effective grazing regimes on habitat sites surrounding rivers can be problematic as the numbers and timing of stock grazing may need careful control. Farmers will need to move their stock on and off waterside sites and therefore will need alternative grazing locations. Having a few animals spread across several fields is inefficient and inconvenient for farmers, so finding farmers willing to take on maintenance agreements can be difficult. In the River Nene Regional Park area where such problems have arisen, a local NGO has considered having its own sheep flock to graze a number of sites that it manages. However this poses problems of how sheep are transported between sites and where they are kept when not grazing for maintenance purposes - which makes this idea an expensive option. • There can be potential conflicts between grazing and enhancing the bird interest in wetlands as farmers typically wish to graze animals from April onwards which does not fit well with the conservation requirements related to the nesting season of wetland and wading birds. Transferable tips • Aim to make a project or plan as low maintenance as possible. • If partners have a cross-sector vision for a river catchment site at the start of a project it is much easier to introduce the need for long term management and to start to discuss this at an early stage in project and plan development. • By thinking about maintenance and management from the start it is possible to create the management/maintenance plan alongside the development plan. • There needs to be clear allocation of responsibilities in a management/maintenance plan with all parties involved signing up to it so that their commitment is assured. • Explore the options for farmers, landowners and other partners to co-operate on putting together an organisation or structure to handle mutual interests. For example there may be situations where a trust could be set up which could attract funding in its own right to help with management activity. • Where management and maintenance is placed with private and/or voluntary partners it is important to recognise and promote all potential benefits not just those from land management. For example the natural state of a site may result in grazing animals being classified as organic which will give a marketing advantage and a premium value to their meat. • If establishing a grazing regime as a maintenance solution is problematic, consider offering incentives to farmers to participate; for example rent free use of the grazing land. • Partners need to acknowledge that a river corridor is a dynamic system and any management and maintenance approach to land will need to be flexible and responsive to changing circumstances. • Seek early involvement with local communities about the project to encourage a sense of ownership and thus a wish to participate in its long term maintenance. • It may be possible to generate income for delivering river catchment improvements through a water use tax if people understand that the money will help generate clean water and also deliver nature conservation benefits.