Funds plea for harbour dredging refused

Claims that a lifeboat cannot be launched at low tide were made as part of a request for Office of Public Works funding for dredging at three west Waterford harbours.

There have been claims 'lives could be lost' unless Helvic, in particular, is dredged.

However, the funding requests have been denied despite this.

Councillors serving the Dungarvan-Lismore municipal district have regularly pleaded with Waterford Council to dredge the harbours in Dungarvan, Helvic and Ballinacourty.

Independent councillor Séamus O’Donnell warned last year that “lives could be lost” unless Helvic, in particular, is dredged.

He claimed that “trawlers can’t come in and the lifeboat can’t get out” when the tide is low.

The councillor spoke of fishermen sometimes having to “wait outside the harbour for hours and hours” until the water rises sufficiently to allow them to berth.

He said livelihoods are also under threat in those circumstances.

Mr O’Donnell also pointed out that boats “sitting on sandbanks” in Dungarvan harbour look “awful bad” from a tourism perspective.

Fine Gael councillor Damien Geoghegan describes the Helvic, situated in the west Waterford Gaeltacht, as “a working harbour with a lengthy fishing tradition” and deems the situation as “unacceptable”.

Senior engineer, Gabriel Hynes, had noted that an exploratory study estimated it would cost €2m initially to dredge the three harbours, plus a further €600,000 in repeat dredging every four years or so.

The figures take into account a requisite foreshore licence, a dumping at sea licence, and “about 12 significant marine surveys” involving tidal currents, water depths and archaeological studies.

The foreshore and dumping at sea licences for Helvic alone were put at €150,000; while the dredging work itself was likely to cost another €300,000, the engineer claims.

Nonetheless, councillors agreed a motion in March last asking the council to seek €5m funding from the OPW and from the Department of Marine and Fisheries combined.

Mr Hynes duly raised the matter with OPW officials when they visited Dungarvan but told June’s municipality meeting that funding will not be forthcoming.

The engineer said the OPW’s priority is to fund cost beneficial, flood relief projects and the OPW does not consider harbour dredging as representative of those criteria.

Mr Hynes has not entirely ruled out funding being acquired from the Department of Marine and Fisheries but said that previous requests have proved unsuccessful.

He said he will continue to submit requests but “at the moment their priority is piers and harbours” in a structural sense.

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