The Government has approved legislation that will transfer responsibility for granting foreshore licences from the Department of Agriculture and Marine to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG).
The transfer, approved by the Cabinet, is seen as giving a significant boost to the wind-power industry.
Many of the massive wind farms in planning are to be located offshore. By assuming responsibility for both planning permission and the foreshore licence, the DEHLG will be in a position to streamline and quicken the Government’s renewable and wind-energy policies.
Since 2007, according to sources, the Government has taken the view that the foreshore licence was a function that was more appropriate to Environment. The integration of the consent process was seen as vital to the development of wind power.
The Government has set out a target of 30 per cent of all energy coming from renewable sources by 2020 - wind power is expected to make up the bulk of that.
The other important aspect of the draft legislation is that powers under the Dumping at Sea Acts are also being transferred from the Department of Agriculture and Marine, with the support of the Minister, Brendan Smith.
However, Environment Minister John Gormley has requested that the dumping-at-sea legislation should be handled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rather than his Department. This has been agreed by Minister Smith.
The Department of Agriculture and Marine will retain all the other marine functions - including harbours, piers and aquaculture.
Some of the functions have already been transferred since 2008, as no legislation was required. These included integrated coastal zone management and quality of shellfish waters. However, the foreshore licence transfer requires the drafting of primary legislation.
The Foreshore Act dates from 1933 and requires that a licence must be obtained from the Minister for Agriculture in advance of any works on foreshore that is owned by the State.