Coire Glas hydro spoil could be dumped at Gairlochy site

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Heavy plant machinery will be needed to move up to 2.6 million tonnes of spoil from the construction site of a massive hydro scheme.

A scoping request has been submitted by SSE Renewables (SSER) to Highland Council to find out if land at Mucomir, near Gairlochy, which already has consent for quarrying activities, would be suitable.

The spoil would come from the already approved massive pumped storage scheme at nearby Coire Glas.

Details of the sort of works and equipment, including dumper trucks, excavators, conveyor belts and barges and possibly even a rock crushing facility, have been included in the scoping request, which aims to find out what would need to be in any Environmental Impact Assessment which would accompany a planning application.

A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) was carried out by EnviroCentre Limited in September 2021 of the site proposed for use.

Biological records of bats, red squirrel, pine marten, hedgehog, brown hare and a range of bird species were returned during the desk study.

The habitats on site offer commuting and foraging habitat for bats, amphibians, otter, water vole, red squirrel, pine marten, badger, hedgehog, brown hare, reptiles, a range of bird species, wild boar, fish species and freshwater pearl mussel.

SSER received consent for the Coire Glas 1055MW Pumped Storage Hydro (PSH) project in October 2020 but as spoil storage in this location was not originally included  further planning permission would be required.

SSER now wishes to proceed with an application for planning permission for this purpose at Mucomir Farm as one potential spoil management option.

A spokesperson for SSER told the Lochaber Times: ‘This is the first step in a process to examine whether Mucomir quarry could be used as an area for the storage of excavated material that is generated during construction of Coire Glas.

‘The site has been identified as a potential storage area for excavated material while work is in progress at the main Coire Glas site.

‘It could be used either as a primary storage area to reduce the amount of excavated material that must be transported by road, or as an emergency storage area if

‘The submission of a scoping request to The Highland Council enables us to begin a process that will establish the location’s suitability for the proposed activity.

‘This process will include an in-depth consultation process with residents, businesses and community organisations to ensure we understand and address any points of concern that are raised about potential impacts to the area.’

The site at Mucomir Farm also lies within Parallel Road of Lochaber Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which is located in the wider Lochaber Geopark.

According to the scoping request documentation, a jetty or other form of land-loch boundary would need to be established either within Mucomir Cut or on the foreshore of Loch Lochy or a combination of both.

It could also see spoil barges shuttling between Mucomir and the Coire Glas lower works area, as well as spoil handling equipment at the jetty area to unload barges (excavators, dumper trucks and grading machinery).

Dredging may also be required to provide access to the land via barges from Loch Lochy.