Monday 23 February 2009

Gormley seeks solution to Fermoy weir row

MINISTER for the Environment John Gormley has pledged to try and find a solution to the row over State plans to alter the river Blackwater’s weir in Fermoy, Co Cork.

Mr Gormley has promised to discuss the issue with his Cabinet colleague, Minister for Natural Resources Eamon Ryan and his junior counterpart, Seán Power.

Mr Ryan’s department plans to replace the weir on the river Blackwater with a rock-ramp fish pass for returning wild salmon.

The work will coincide with implementation of a 32 million flood plan for Fermoy by the Office of Public Works, according to the department.

However, Fermoy Rowing Club, which is marking its 125th anniversary this year, claims the weir only needs to be repaired.

An engineer’s report which the club commissioned suggested the cheaper and more effective solution would be to repair the weir and install a second fish pass. The club says that a rock-ramp pass would affect river levels and threaten the club’s existence.

“There has been a weir on the Blackwater in Fermoy since 1160,” Fermoy Rowing Club secretary Donal Buckley said.

“Thomas Cromwell recorded it in his 1530s inventory of monasteries for Henry VIII. The Scottish entrepreneur John Anderson built the modern town around the millrace and the bridge.” He says that the local triathlon club, sub-aqua club, University Canoe Club, other kayakers and swimmers would be affected negatively, as the increased flow could suck them on to the rock pass.

Mr Gormley was met with a protest over the weir issue last Friday evening in Fermoy.

A meeting was subsequently held between the Minister and Mr Buckley, facilitated by Green Party local election candidate Adam Douglas – at which Mr Gormley promised to try and seek a resolution. Mr Ryan’s department told The Irish Times late last year that the weir was currently in breach of the EU Habitats Directive as it was preventing salmon from migrating.

Mr Buckley has challenged this claim. He says that information received by the rowing club from the European Commission by MEP Kathy Sinnott indicates that a case, involving a complaint about the weir lodged in 2003, was now “closed” as the Government was dealing with the issue.

A spokeswoman for Mr Ryan’s department said that Mr Power had met with Fermoy town council officials and rowing club representatives.

The town council will review the department’s proposals for the weir, or come up with an alternative which would improve the fish pass and maintaining the amenity for users, the spokeswoman said.

Irish Times

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