Case study: River Feshie

Conflict and cooperation on the Feshie
The middle reaches of the River Spey include three floodplains – Laggan, Insh Marshes and Boat of Garten/Grantown. They have had a long history of regular flooding and flood control measures. There have been 120 flooding ‘events’ over the past 220 years – some significant, some minor. Flood protection and land reclamation works began to be constructed as early as the late 1700s. Sometimes these efforts transferred the problem elsewhere.

In 1991 calls for flood alleviation on the Spey focused on one of its tributaries, the River Feshie, and its confluence with the Spey, below the Insh Marshes. The Feshie transports huge volumes of sediment and deposits it as a ‘plug’ of shingle banks, restricting the channel. This was seen as a major cause of the flooding problem.

Two alternative flood alleviation schemes were proposed:

  • realign the River Feshie at its confluence with the Spey, or
  • regrade the main channel of the Spey downstream from Loch Insh.

The Feshie is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of its national geomorphological importance, as the best example of an active alluvial fan in Britain. It is now also recognised as an area of special biological interest.

The Insh Marshes and adjacent River Spey are designated a biological SSSI, and have also been proposed as a Ramsar Site and Special Protection Area (SPA). Loch Insh has no formal designation but is recognised as an area of great importance for wildlife, influencing the Spey ecosystem downstream.