Environmental group warns OPW over Bandon flood relief works

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

October 24th, 2018

An environmental group has warned the Office of Public Works (OPW) to stop operation on Bandon River or face a potential legal challenge.

The Bandon Flood Relief Scheme was designed to protect Bandon Town from flooding after a heavy rainfall led to the river bursting its banks in 2009, inflicting more than €20 million worth of damage to the town.

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), however, has called on the OPW to immediately halt its flood relief scheme on the west Cork river, describing the operation as a “ serious and fundamental breach of environmental commitments”.

In a letter to the OPW, a law firm representing the environmental group argue that the OPW has violated the EU’s environmental regulations by endangering the livelihood of EU protected marine habitats.

The letter reads: “Unless you and/or your contractors immediately cease all works and undertake to forthwith remediate the environmental damage already caused, we are to bring proceedings before the High Court seeking Injunctive and Remedial Relief.”

FIE director, Tony Lowes, described OPW’s lack of engagement with opponents of its approach to flood relief as “unprecedented,” and a “blatant disregard for their own environmental commitments”.

Rock armouring which is currently being installed along banks of Bandon Photo: Ecofact

Rock armouring which is currently being installed along banks of Bandon Photo: Ecofact

The warning follows concern from locals, environmentalists and ecologists over the environmental standards of the project that aims to alleviate flooding from the river.

Opponents argue that the scheme’s 3.6km dredging operation breaches environmental safety standards and poses a significant threat to key species in the river, namely the freshwater pearl mussel, eel and Lamprey that live alongside the river’s well-known salmon population.

Limerick-based Ecologist Dr William O’Connor previously told The Green News that the rock armouring installed to stabilise the river’s banks will “obliterate” the stream.

“I can’t see the river really going to recover from the amount of rock armouring that they’re putting along the entire section,” he said.

FiE also criticised the OPW’s approach to fish pass mitigation. Opponents to the scheme argue that the large fish pass – reportedly the largest of its kind in Europe – currently under construction to allow for the natural migration of fish, is too large for the river’s small weir.

“The overbearing and unnecessary scale of their engineering interventions is highlighted by the OPW’s creation of a fish pass dubbed locally the ‘whale pass’ because of its absurd scale, when simply removing the weir in question would have provided for fish migration,” Mr Lowes said.

In a statement to The Green News, the OPW said that the scheme had been subjected to significant ecological assessments with appropriate mitigation measures designed to ensure the livelihood of the river’s fish species.

“OPW is aware that the scheme’s short-term impacts can be significant but can be managed in the long haul,” the statement reads.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.