Lower River Shannon “Falls of Doonass”, January 2020.
The old “Moreek” pool is also featured – formerly part of the internationally renowned Hermitage salmon fishery. Over 96% of the flow was being abstracted at Parteen Regulating Weir when this video was taken. This river is still here however and the Lower River Shannon is a not a Heavily Modified Water Body.
Over 15km of Natura 2000 river can be restored by just stopping ESB abstracting such an unsustainable amount of water.
In 1923 the Reverend Joseph Adams wrote “it’s a miniature Niagra from World’s End to Landscape. Above the falls and below them the Shannon is raging mad, racing, leaping, seething, foaming like a thing possessed”. On the day when the above video was taken the ESB was abstracting 340 cubic metres of water per second (cumecs) from the river – reducing the flow to just 10 cumecs below Parteen Regulating Weir. They were therefore abstracting an astonishing 97% of the flow in the river – and this severely affects 15km+ of EU Natura 2000 river.
The ESB have been abstracting water at this level since early October 2019, and (with the exception of two small spills in October and December 2019) the flow in the river downstream of Parteen weir has not exceeded 11 cumecs since the end of March 2019. This extreme level of water abstraction and regulation is incompatible with the Habitats Directive, Water Framework Directive, and Eel Regulation.
The river channel at Doonass is almost unrecognizable today as a result of this excessive abstraction. The flow is barely visible on this once great river and the channel is heavily silted and encroached by woodland. This woodland is a qualifying interest of the Lower River Shannon SAC – but it is in poor conservation status. To be healthy, alluvial forest needs floods and disturbance. However, due to the low and unvaried flow the woodland here is rank and dominated by non-native invasive species. There has also been extensive modification of the river using weirs and walls to try to hold back the water and re-create the old angling pools. This has further damaged the river and increased encroachment and flood risk. Indeed, none of the mitigation used for the Shannon scheme has worked – and this Natura 2000 river is now in severe ecological decline. Salmon runs are <5% of what they should be. The ESB are still managing this river in the same way as they did in the 1930’s – this has to stop, now!!
The extreme structures installed by ESB on this SAC to “mitigate” for their excessive water abstraction for hydroelectricity generation are also apparent in the above videos. These modifications need to be removed and this Natura 2000 river restored.
We should have a major new project here restoring the River Shannon and its salmon runs – not a scheme taking water to Dublin. The Irish Water scheme would lock us in forever to the unsustainable way that ESB have managed the river since the 1930s – and bring no benefits locally.
We can start reversing the impacts on this river and begin the restoration immediately. Most of the changes would cost nothing to implement. It is just not acceptable in 2020 to leave just 3% of the flow in an Internationally designated river. The key to restoring salmon runs is sustainable water management. Let’s make 2020 the “Year of the Shannon Salmon”.