DUBLIN CITY Council is to carry out “intensive monitoring” of water levels and water quality in Lough Derg on the river Shannon as a prelude to advancing its controversial plan to take water to supply the Dublin region.
A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the plan, which would involve storing and treating water in a cutaway bog in Co Laois, was published by the council yesterday in compliance with EU regulations.
Project director Tom Leahy said th assessment confirmed that the plan was “the best one for Ireland to provide a sustainable future water supply for the 10 counties along the route as well as to the greater Dublin area”, where 40 per cent of the population now lives.
“The water scheme – including the new midlands water-based eco-park and storage, is essential to provide for security of supply and job creation – will not affect water levels on the Shannon and fully protects the environment,” Mr Leahy said.
According to the environmental assessment, the taking of raw water with intermediate storage was preferred, “based on available information” that it would not have significant environmental impacts, although further monitoring and mitigation measures would be required.
Under article 10 of the EU’s SEA directive, monitoring must be carried out in order to identify at an early stage any “unforeseen adverse effects” due to the implementation of a plan, so that the promoters would be able to take remedial action.
An independent working group is to be set up to identify the monitoring required. This would include representatives of statutory bodies such as the ESB, Waterways Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Monitoring equipment has already been installed in the river Shannon at Athlone in order to record discharge,” the SEA says.
Data collection equipment is also to be installed at a number of other locations to gather long-term data on water levels
“For the lower river Shannon (below Parteen weir), the current hydrological regime should be preserved to ensure that existing habitats that are dependent on inundation are maintained,” it says, referring to habitats in the Shannon callows.
An ecological study is recommended in order to examine the possibilities for ecological design, fisheries and habitat recreation for the storage area at Garryhinch, Co Laois.
All above-ground facilities are to be designed “in sympathy with the surrounding landscape”.
Dublin City Council will also have to make an agreement with the ESB that would “include details on the compensation for the loss of power generation” at the long-established Árd na Crusha hydroelectric station as a result of taking water from Lough Derg.
The council has sought consultations with An Bord Pleanála with a view to lodging a planning application for the overall project in 18 months, under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.
Processing the application could take up to two years.
The water supply plan and environmental statement are on view at the planning counters of Dublin’s local authorities as well as Kildare, Meath, Wicklow, Laois, Offaly, North Tipperary, Westmeath, Galway, Limerick and Clare county councils from now until November 1st.