Tourism revenue in Fermoy could be negatively impacted by rapidly-collapsing pier

An Oireachtas committee has been advised a €50,000 boom will have to be deployed on a top angling and leisure river in Co Cork or risk cancelling a number of sporting and social events due to a rapidly-collapsing pier.

The proposed boom on the River Blackwater in the heart of Fermoy town is needed to maintain high water levels.

Tommy Lawton, a spokesman for 'Save Fermoy Weir' a lobby group which represents 12 organisations in the town, said the weir close to the town bridge was a protected structure but was collapsing at an alarming extent.

He told a meeting of the Joint Committee on Public Petitions that water levels had dropped so much that the town's annual rowing regatta was likely to be cancelled, this summer, for the first time in 80 years.

He also said triathlons were also likely to be cancelled while his colleague Paul Kavanagh said disabled fishermen were unable to use a specially adapted boat as it was not safe to launch at low water levels.

Mr Kavanagh said the boom needed to be installed in the next four weeks, or otherwise the events would be called off and that would have a very negative impact on the town's tourism revenue.

He said if the boom was put across two eyes of the bridge it would raise water levels upstream and migrating salmon would be able to pass under it.

Mr Lawton stated no maintenance had been carried out on the weir since 1966.

Plans have been drawn up to replace it and build a new fish pass on the northern side of the bridge, in what is known locally as the 'triangle' field.

However, as yet, various government departments have not confirmed they will provide grant aid for the project which could cost up to €3.5m.

Cork County Council has agreed to pay half of the cost of appointing consultants to draw up detailed plans for a new weir.

But there has been no commitment from government departments, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) or the OPW to fund the remainder.

Mr Kavanagh pointed out that it was just the design phase and both he and other members of the lobby group are concerned the weir will "completely wash away" even before the consultants have finalised their report.

He also said there was no need to build a new weir or fish pass, maintaining it would cost only €1m to repair the existing weir and its fish passes.

Pat Buckley, acting chairman of the public petitions committee, said he agreed it was better to take preventative measures now rather than wait for it to completely disappear.

The committee, he said, would invite officials from Cork County Council, relevant government departments and agencies such as IFI, OPW and the National Parks & Wildlife Service to attend a follow-up meeting.

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