Mulkear Life are in breach of the requirements of the Habitats Directive?

Mulkear LIFE recently circulated a report entitled “Upgrade of Ballyclogh Weir on the Mulkear River – Appropriate Assessment Screening Report Assessment of Potential Impacts“. We would like to clarify that this report is not an Appropriate Assessment – as required under the Habitats Directive – but is a screening report which assesses whether an Appropriate Assessment is required or not.

Mulkear LIFE’s screening report incorrectly concluded that an Appropriate Assessment was not required for the removal of Ballyclough Weir. They did not prepare an Appropriate Assessment. This was despite that fact that these works were undertaken within the SAC and during the sea lamprey spawning season. The Screening Report prepared by Mulkear Life did not follow the NPWS Guidelines for Appropriate Assessment for Ireland, as if it did a full Appropriate Assessment (or Natura Impact Statement) would have been prepared.

The Screening Report they prepared made a number of incorrect and misleading statements. One of which was that they said that there were no sea lamprey spawning habitats downstream of the Ballyclough site weir removal site. This was incorrect as the main sea lamprey spawning area, as anyone who knows the River Mulkear is aware of, is downstream of Ballyclough at Annacotty. This is within the zone of influence of siltation and suspended solids pollution, thereby leading to the conclusion that there was a potential for significant adverse effects (i.e. Appropriate Assessment required) . See our photos here posted in June 2013 on Facebook of sea lampreys spawning at Annacotty.

There are a large number of additional errors and apparently deliberately misleading statements in the Screening Report, which were in our opinion used to avoid the requirement of having to prepare a full Appropriate Assessment. If a full AA had been prepared “a month of major instream works” would not have taken place during the height of the sea lamprey spawning season. 

Major instream works at the peak of the sea lamprey spawning season
Major instream works at the peak of the sea lamprey spawning season

It is our opinion that Mulkear Life have caused significant damage to the sea lampreys population in the Lower Mulkear as a result of these badly timed works, which released significant quantities of silt into the river at the most sensitive time for sea lampreys. The impact of the silt, which can smother lamprey ova and larvae, was exacerbated by prevailing low flows and high water temperatures. Although the removal of the weir will benefit the Mulkear in the long-term, there has been significant damage done to sea lamprey populations in the river – a species which is endangered in Europe and supposedly protected within this SAC – by an organisation that is part funded by the EU and supposedly there to protect this species. If an Appropriate Assessment had been prepared these issues would have emerged, and suitable mitigation measures (such as timing the works to outside the sea lamprey spawning season, water quality protection measures etc.) would have been included.

For more information see our previous post below, and all the allegations we put forward here still stand:-

We are disappointed that Mulkear Life were recently given an environmental award by the  Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), and it is clear that the CIWEM were unaware of this organisation’s apparent breaches of the requirements of Article 6 of the EU Habitats Directive. In our opinion Mulkear Life should be instead investigated for water pollution offences and disturbance of sea lampreys in an SAC during the peak of the sea lamprey spawning season. We also believe that they have mislead the public in relation to the success of their “lamprey pass” at Annacotty weir, which we believe does not provide any significant benefits to lampreys in the river.  They have never produced any scientific information to show that this pass works.  They also completed a major electrofishing survey of the Mulkear during the lamprey spawning season, and boasted about numerous other major instream works such as construction of rubble mats, all during the lamprey spawning season within an SAC.  This followed on from ruthlessly disturbing sea lampreys (tag as many as we can catch) on their spawning site in Annacotty and inserting radio tags into them in a failed operation to answer a question for which the answer was already known; again without an Appropriate Assessment. A complaint to Europe about the behaviour of this organisation is urgently needed. We believe that their funding from the EU should be withdrawn, and they should have to repay grants paid to date.

PS: Archaeological impact of Ballyclough Weir removal – where was the cultural heritage impact assessment? In addition to proper procedure being followed, and mitigation measures being applied,  in relation to ecological issues during the removal of this weir, we were also concerned about impacts on cultural heritage / archaeology at the time. We therefore consulted with a cultural heritage consultancy and they told us that Ballycough Water Mills are included in the NIAH’s buildings survey as 21900608 and dates to 1750-1770 and “the mill building forms part of a large complex of regional cultural heritage importance. The building and surrounding structures serve as physical reminders of the industrial and social history of the area and constitutes an important element of the architectural heritage of the area“. They noted that “the published photographs [on the Mulkear Life website] of the destruction of part of the weir show that this work was undertaken in the absence of a supervising conservation specialist or monitoring archaeologist and as such has not been historically or archaeologically recorded“. This was considered by our cultural heritage consultants to be a significant negative impact.

It is nonsense to suggest as Mulkear Life did that concreting the weir amounts to “upgrading the heritage value of retained section of weir“. Heritage value is heritage value and it can’t be “upgraded”.

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