Timeline for River Blackwater refurbishment announced after two-year battle

Timeline for River Blackwater refurbishment announced after two-year battle
The River Blackwater in Fermoy, Co Cork

A timeline for the refurbishment of a crumbling weir on the River Blackwater in Co Cork has been announced by Cork County Council.

The announcement came after Eoghan Murphy, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, finally agreed that his department would co-fund the redesign of the weir in Fermoy.

The news was welcomed by local councillors after they had battled for more than two years to get support funding from the government for the project.

Fermoy municipal district officer Pauline Moriarty told councillors at a meeting in Mitchelstown that as a result of Mr Murphy's announcement consultants could now undertake the design work which she said "will be quite complex and specialised."

She said it was likely to take all of next year to complete this and construction would get underway in 2021.

Ms Moriarty said this is the shortest timeframe possible due to the need to go to An Bord Pleanála for planning permission and also because the council will need to obtain consent from a number of statutory bodies to undertake work in the river.

The reason the council has to apply to An Bord Pleanála for planning permission is because the weir is a protected structure.

Earlier this year large sections of the weir fell into the river and fears remain that little or nothing of it will be left by the time the works get underway, especially if there are any big floods during the next two winters.

Cllr Noel McCarthy welcomed the news, but pointed out that it will take another two or even three years before repairs are completed.

"People must be under no illusion that it will take this long," he added.

It has been estimated that it will cost more than €3m to complete the project and develop a new fish pass.

Damage to the current fish pass has caused serious concern among salmon anglers.

The Blackwater is regarded as one of the finest salmon rivers in Ireland and fears have been consistently raised that if fish can't get up the river to spawn it will lead to a major fall-off in catches.

Damage to the fish pass is also hindering the migration of lamprey.

The local rowing club also suffered as water levels dropped as a result of the crumbling of the weir and the club had difficulties in launching its boats on the water.

When a 10-metre section of the weir collapsed last April, the course of the river and it speed also changed resulting in potential danger for people using the river for recreational activities.

Cllr Frank O'Flynn also welcomed the announcement from Mr Murphy and he thanked Deputy David Stanton for the lobbying he had done on the issue.

He said as a result of this he is "very confident" that the funds needed for its repair and the construction of a new fish pass would come from various government departments and EU grants.

Cllr Kay Dawson said it was unfortunate there was no way to speed it up because of the need for licences for the work and planning permission from An Bord Pleanála.

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