THE Bandon River ‘fish pass’ – which is currently under construction – has been strongly criticised, with one well-known environmentalist describing it as ‘butchery’.
The pass – said to be the biggest in Europe – is being constructed as a result of the Bandon flood relief works.
But local woman Trish O’Driscoll said an offer to the Office of Public Works (OPW) by her father Paddy O’Sullivan, of Bandon Charitable Resources, to demolish the weir to enable fish to pass upriver unimpeded, was rejected.
She said it was now being jokingly referred to as a ‘whale’ pass, rather than a ‘fish’ pass, such is the size of it.
Bandon Charitable Resources bought the weir in the 1980s, and an adjoining site, to build a water turbine. ‘Bandon Charitable Resources would be happy to forego the weir in the interests of Bandon River,’ said Trish. ‘This would have been a fraction of the cost of taxpayers’ money and a fraction of the impact to the natural environment. I don’t understand how this was passed by the OPW as being a good idea.’
Dr William O’Connor from environmental consultant company, Ecofact, says the weir should have just been removed and this would have restored fish migration in the river.
He claims that lampreys – and eels in particular – would not then end up trapped below the weir.
‘The Bandon flood scheme is an environmental catastrophe and should never have been allowed to proceed in this form,’ said Dr O’Connor. ‘The river will never recover from the profound impacts of dredging and installation of extreme rock armouring. Fish passage problems at this new fish pass will be another likely impact,’ he said.
Bandon-based environmentalist Declan Waugh agreed, saying online this week: ‘I have never seen anything like the butchery they have undertaken on this natural resource anywhere in Europe … they went for the most destructive and expensive option.’
A spokesperson for the OPW told The Southern Star this week that the proposal to remove the weir could have delayed the completion of the flood relief scheme by years.
‘The current fish pass works are due to be completed by October, which will bring the overall scheme much closer to completion,’ they added.