THE DEPARTMENT of the Environment says it received 190 submissions in response to an application by Shell EP Ireland to carry out investigative work in north Mayo’s Sruwaddacon estuary.
The department is still analysing Shell’s foreshore licence application to drill up to 80 boreholes in the estuary, which is a candidate Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The company says it needs to carry out the work as part of site investigations for the Corrib gas onshore pipeline route. It has also sought tenders for design and construction of a pipeline under the estuary.
Late last year An Bord Pleanála suggested that the Corrib gas developers might explore the estuary as an alternative to a modified onshore route which the developers had sought permission for under the Strategic Infrastructure Act. The appeals board found half of the modified 9km route was “unacceptable” on safety grounds, due to proximity to housing in Rossport and between Glengad and Aughoose.
Shell consultants RPS had ruled against running the high-pressure pipeline through Sruwaddacon on environmental and technical grounds two years ago.
The consultants had noted in December 2007 that Sruwaddacon was designated under EU Habitats Directive Annex 1 habitats, and the bay was an “integral part of the Glenamoy river salmonid fishery”.
The Department of the Environment says it is still sorting through the 190 submissions on the foreshore licence application.
At least 140 submissions are from the area, according to the Shell to Sea campaign group. Community group Pobal Chill Chomáin and individual residents have also sent objections.
Shell to Sea has called on Minister for the Environment John Gormley to reject the application because it would entail “destructive” surveying works which, it is feared, would degrade the estuary’s SAC status.
Shell’s application says the boreholes would be up to 30mm to minimise disturbance and “it is not anticipated” that the work would have an adverse impact on the SAC.
Last month the company indicated that work on crucial parts of the project, including laying the umbilical and onshore pipeline, if approved, would take place next year.
Earlier this month the State and Shell lost their bid to stop two Mayo residents from pursuing High Court claims as to whether a ministerial consent given eight years ago for the onshore gas pipeline was valid.
Ms Justice Mary Laffoy ruled on March 4th that landowners Brendan Philbin of Rossport South and Bríd McGarry of Gortacragher were entitled to have that issue and other public law claims determined by the court.
In a related development, consultants RPS have confirmed that they plan to undertake a “noise survey” in the area as part of work on a revised environmental impact statement for An Bord Pleanála.
Such a survey measures the existing or “baseline” noise to gauge whether additional temporary noise is acceptable environmentally, according to the company.
Shell asked the appeals board for more time to supply further information and the board gave it until the end of May.