Staff from Inland Fisheries worked throughout the weekend to save fish trapped in a canal that was in danger of drying up after damage to the weir halted the flow of water from the River Lee.
A spokesperson for Inland Fisheries said yesterday that staff, working in the park since Friday, had saved thousands of fish, including roach, rudd, bream, salmon, brown trout, lampreys, eels and gudgeon.
The fish were stunned using electrodes — known as electrofishing — before being transported by the bucketload and returned to the River Lee.
The Inland Fisheries spokesperson said they expected to finish their work last night.
“We’ve been working over the weekend to ensure a successful fish rescue operation and we estimate up to 10,000 fish have been saved,” she said.
The ESB was due to recommence generation at the weir last night, and the spokeswoman said they expected any dead fish to be flushed out. She said Inland Fisheries staff had not come across any dead fish.
Local Fine Gael councillor Derry Canty said it was his understanding that the weir had been destabilised a number of years ago when permission was given to anglers’ associations to dig holes in front of the weir to allow salmon rest before proceeding up-river.
“About eight years ago, anglers dug three holes and my belief is one of those was dug directly under the weir and undermined its structure. It’s disintegrated bit by bit over the years and last Wednesday, a big central section was washed away,” Mr Canty said.
The upshot was the flow of water to the only operational canal in the park was effectively halted, posing a threat to thousands of fish which Mr Canty said were tossed into the canal when the River Lee burst its banks in the big flood of 2009.
Mr Canty said he understood Cork County Council officials had met to discuss what could be done to restore the weir following its collapse last Wednesday.
He said restoration “will cost an awful lot of money and it won’t be done today or tomorrow”, but that in the interim, he understood the council was to bring in a JCB today to dig a trench from the river to the canal in an effort to restore water supply.
The canal network in the regional park was built in 1795 to produce a head of water to harness the power needed to drive the various gunpowder mills more efficiently. Water was taken from the river above the weir through the sluice gates and after flowing through the canal system and servicing the mills, was returned to the river at a lower point, according to the Ballincollig Heritage Association.