A MAJOR hurdle to reintroducing salmon to a stretch of river has been overcome after conservation groups landed a £15,000 donation.

As part of a £180,000 scheme to increase the chances of migratory fish successfully migrating and spawning in rivers which lead to the North Sea, Associated British Ports (ABP) granted an additional £15,000 to remove a weir in lower Wensleydale and redistribute gravel over a large area to enable more fish to spawn upstream.

The Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust said Breary Banks weir, on a remote section of the River Burn on the Swinton Estate, near Masham, had represented a significant barrier to the upstream movement of migratory fish and the removal had opened up 5.5km of good quality salmonid nursery and juvenile habitat.

Other species expected to benefit include sea trout, brown trout, grayling, elvers, bullhead, stoneloach and brook lamprey.

ABP head of projects for the Humber Simon Brett said: "Working closely with the rivers trust means we can identify those areas and projects within the Humber River Basin that will benefit most from the funding and the weir at Breary Banks on the Swinton Estate was one project of many that we have been involved in.

"It’s fantastic to know that these salmonid species will once again be able to travel up the River Burn unhindered."

The move follows the Environment Agency reporting last summer that anglers were regularly catching salmon of more than 20lbs, following a concerted ecological and environmental effort on the River Ure, of which the River Burn is a tributary.

More than 30,000 salmon smolts have been released into the River Burn by the Ure Salmon Trust in the last two years, meaning adult salmon will be returning to the river's system over the next few years.

The trust's chairman, Andy Brown, said it was planning an ambitious scheme to improve the quality of the River Ure and slow its flow at peak times, partly to help avert flooding downstream in towns including Boroughbridge and York.

He said the trust was working with landowners and farmers and examining ways of gaining funding for a project based on the principles used in Pickering's slow the flow scheme.

Mr Brown added: "Pickering's scheme was relatively straightforward compared to what we are facing, with a much larger catchment area and many landowners.

"We will do anything we can to reduce downstream flooding so the moorland acts like a sponge."