Parteen Regulating Weir, January 2020. This weir severs the Lower River Shannon SAC. For the last few months ESB Networks have been abstracting c.97% of the water in the river at this point. All winter long the river below this weir has had its flow reduced to extreme drought flows. The flow does not vary even when there is a flood – it is always 10-11 cumecs with the rest of the water abstracted. The ESB take up to 400 cumecs down the headrace. This affects over 15km of Natura 2000 river. There is also no downstream fish pass at Ardnacrusha Hydroelectric Station and the critically endangered silver #eels migrating down the river end up in the turbines. The same happens with salmon smolts.
But this can be stopped tomorrow. This is a decision that is taken every day by ESB – every day since the winter of 1929/30. The ESB have not reviewed the management of the river in 90 years! The Habitats Directive, Water Framework Directive and Eel Regulation have all come into to force – but it’s business as usual at the control room at Ardnacrusha. But we can start managing the river in a sustainable way today. No infrastructure is required to do this.
Remove the trap from the fish pass and let more water down this pass at the same time and we will see immediate benefits – at no cost! Indeed closing the hatchery will save millions! Use the spillway at Parteen weir to pass salmon smolts and eels downstream, and salmon will find the pass here easily if there is no trap and more water in it. Then use the money saved from closing the salmon hatchery to implement a full programme to restore the Lower River Shannon – to include new fish passes and bypasses. The hydroelectric station can still be used also – but in a sustainable way. The headrace will still have a role in flood management due to all the development which has been allowed on the former floodplains. But producing hydroelectricity will have been balanced with restoring fish runs and the ecological and amenity value of the river – to the benefit of all.
This is not too much to ask – it is this type of project which we should be progressing now, not a project to abstract water for Dublin!