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Scottish micro hydro project developers charged with destroying mussel habitat

Developers of a 1.5 MW mini hydro project in a Highland Perthshire glen are facing fines up to US$245,000 for killing a protected species and causing long-term environmental damage to Scotland's River Lyon.

Sources said English-based Shawater Ltd. admitted to being responsible for the death and injury of pearl mussels while working on the Inverinian hydroelectric plant, allowing its sub-contractors to build a pipeline, ford and access road "in a manner likely to cause pollution to the water environment".

According to reports, Shawater failed to prevent suspended solids and other materials from entering the Inverinian Burn and River Lyon, clogging the waterways with silt and depriving juvenile mussels with enough oxygen to survive.

Also being charged alongside Shawater are Alan Smith, director of A&C Construction, and Charles Kippen, director of Chic Kippen & Son -- both of which were hired for work on the project.

Sentencing is expected for this week.

Pearl mussels rank amongst the most critically endangered mollusks in the world, and with about half their global population located in Scotland, they are a federally protected species.

"It is unfortunate that a very small number of developers and contractors choose to ignore the rules," said British Hydropower Association (BHA) CEO David Williams said.

BHA and its Scottish members regularly work with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) when designing and building hydropower projects, Williams said, "to protect the flora and fauna within the boundaries of each scheme."

None of the parties involved with the Inverinian project are BHA members, according to Williams.

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