BY SIOBHÁN CRONIN
INLAND Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has said the Department of Energy has not, as yet, received any formal application from Cork County Council, regarding proposed remedial works on the River Bandon to alleviate the threat of flooding.
It added that Cork County Council has, however, made a request to use the law to get an exemption from the ‘closed season’ for instream works, from now through to the end of 2017. ‘This request falls beyond the scope of the Act, which only provides for emergency works,’ said the IFI. It added: ‘As of today the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources has not received a formal application for an exemption from Cork County Council.’
The IFI says it has a history of working in a ‘positive’ and ‘proactive’ manner with agencies. ‘In the context of the current emergency, IFI will work with all relevant parties in expediting emergency flood relief works,’ it added, again stressing the works undertaken must be considered ‘emergency’ works, or they cannot be carried out at this time of year.
IFI boss Dr Ciaran Byrne, said that ‘fisheries legislation provides for a closed season for undertaking instream works. However, in emergency circumstances, such as those currently being experienced, the 1949 Act provides for the relevant Minister to issue an exemption subject to taking precautions and making provisions for the protection of fisheries.’
He added: ‘For the last number of years during September, IFI has liaised with Cork County Council, at its request, and facilitated the removal of excess gravel from the Bandon River downstream of the old road bridge in the town to allay fears that these gravels may cause flooding. IFI will continue to work in a positive and constructive way with Cork County Council on this and other matters.’
‘With regard to the Bandon River, while there has been communication with IFI for an exemption under the Works Act, as of today the Department has not received a formal application for an exemption from Cork County Council. IFI anticipate this application in the coming days.’
The IFI statement added: ‘Scheduled to begin in June 2016, the works will see the rock bed of the river lowered by up to 2m in the heart of the town, tapering downstream for some 3-3.5km. The scheme includes provision for a fisheries habitat rehabilitation programme once the design bed levels and flood conveyance capacity are achieved.’
Speaking exclusively to The Southern Star after a visit to traders in Bandon this week, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said that he was aware of discussions at an EU level to try and expedite the issue regarding dredging in Bandon, but that he was anxious remedial work be carried out in the river. ‘However, I don’t know the specifics of what is feasible and what is not,’ the Minister added.