AN ELGIN distillery can progress with a multimillion pound development now it is safe from flooding.
Glen Moray, on the western outskirts of the town, has been hit several times over the last few years – the most recent in 2009 – when the River Lossie burst its banks, washing away empty whisky barrels.
Over the last nine months a 100 metre reinforced concrete wall has been built to hold back floodwater, along with a 215 metre earth embankment.
Glen Moray manager Graham Coull said it was ironic that the River Lossie, from which the distillery draws its water supply, had occasionally proved to be a troublesome neighbour and he was relieved the flood prevention measures were now in place.
He added: "September 2009 – the last time we were flooded out – is etched in my memory and it is reassuring now to know that the work here has been completed.
"We have worked closely with the council and the flood alleviation team and I’m pleased to say that the flood works were carried out without disruption to everyday distillery operations."
With the defences now in place the distillery is in a position to progress plans that would see production at the distillery double over the 12 to 24 months.
Mr Coull said: "The flood defences secure the future of the distillery.
He added: "We have to look at the bigger picture – the floods were a horrible thing, although within a few days we were back up and running.
"But we had to live with it.
"It will definitely give security to the existing jobs and make way for some additional employment opportunities."
At the moment 25 people are employed in the production side, warehouse and the visitor centre at the distillery.
Around 3.3 million litres of spirit is produced at Glen Moray in a year.
Peter Haslam, project manager for the Elgin flood scheme, said: "The work at Glen Moray went very well, and it was completed a lot quicker then we expected.
"Initially, we were going to do the work in three phases, coming in for a short while each year.
"But we had a discussion with the distillery manager and decided to do it in one go.
"Originally, we were scheduled to finish in October so we’ve completed the work here a bit early."
The £86 million Elgin scheme is scheduled for completion in May 2015.
Work on the project is continuing with the deck of the new Pansport bridge expected to be laid later this month.
Some utility diversions still have to be completed and defences at Bishopmill are nearing completion before work begins at Old Mills and Mary Well.
Councillor George Alexander, who chairs Moray Council’s flood alleviation sub-committee, said: "The Elgin flood scheme is the biggest of its kind ever undertaken in Scotland and will save hundreds of homes and businesses from the kind of flooding they have suffered too often in the past.
"One of those businesses is Glen Moray, which has been in production on this site for more than a century and which is a major contributor to the local economy.
"I am delighted that this phase of the flood scheme has been completed and that Glen Moray can get on with the job of producing Scotch whisky, free from worries about flooding."
The Elgin scheme is one of five worth in the order of £180 million, which have been promoted by Moray Council. Projects have already been completed in Rothes, Lhanbryde and at the Burn of Mosset in Forres.
A second Forres scheme, covering the River Findhorn and Pilmuir, is also currently under construction.
Next week the public will have the chance to view Moray’s biggest-ever civil engineering project as part of a national initiative to give people a close-up look at some of the country’s major construction sites.
During the Open Doors Weekend 2013, people will have the opportunity of touring the Elgin flood scheme on Friday (September 27) and Saturday (September 28).
A series of hour-long guided visits will give an insight into a scheme which was designed to protect 600 homes and 250 businesses from flooding.
Places on the tours can by booked online at http://www.opendoorsweekend.co.uk/site/77#sthash.F0nBuaQJ.dpbs
Participants should report to the project site office at Grampian Road where there will be a brief safety induction prior to the tour.
There is no disabled access and under 16s must be accompanied by an adult.
Hard hats and hi-vis vests will be provided but those taking part should wear suitable outdoor clothing and footwear.
A Moray Council spokesman said: "There will be four tours on Friday and two on Saturday morning and places are limited so those who are keen to get a behind-the-scenes look at the flood scheme are advised to book quickly."