RARE crayfish are being relocated in the River Wansbeck to make way for vital work to prevent landslips.
A landslip occurred at Snuff Mill near Mitford Church earlier this year and there are fears that if nothing is done, more such incidents could follow.
It is therefore planned for contractors to remove trees and their root balls from a section of the river bank most at risk, re-grading the bank at a shallower angle so it is less likely to suffer another landslip.
The project is expected to take place over the next three weeks, but it will be subject to the weather and depend on water levels as the contractors need to get heavy plant into the river.
Temporary traffic lights will be in place to manage vehicles from an unclassified road off the B6343 during the work.
To clear the way for the scheme the Environment Agency will have to relocate the native white-clawed crayfish from the area.
Expert staff will be moving the protected species by hand further downstream this week.
Environment Agency Technical Officer Paul Hannaby said: “We’ve been in the water surveying the number of white-clawed crayfish in the Wansbeck. This is in preparation for relocating them to safety over the next couple of days.
“The white-clawed crayfish has been significantly threatened in this country by the invasion of the non-native signal crayfish. The River Wansbeck is one of the best watercourses in the country for the native species, offering the ideal habitat which is completely free from the invasive species.”
There will be a larger-scale crayfish relocation operation on the river later this summer to prepare for work starting on the construction of an upstream floodwater storage system near Mitford. The project is part of the Morpeth flood alleviation scheme, which also includes work to bolster town-centre defences.
White-clawed crayfish are Britain’s only native freshwater crayfish and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence to intentionally take them from the wild.