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ESB must shut River Lee fish pass to save salmon

In 1951, 14,000 salmon were caught on the River Lee between the draught nets and rods. In 1957, the inniscarra Hydro Scheme opened to generate electricity. In 1961, 141 salmon were caught.

The Lee salmon had been wiped out. The ESB were forced to open the Carrigadrohid Hatchery.

The agreement was they would put 250,000 smolts into the river every year to try to replace the salmon. In the past number of years the ESB has reneged on this agreement and the number of smolts being put in is as low as 40,000.

During the construction of the dam the fate of the salmon was the last thing on anybody’s mind; as an after thought a mickey mouse fish pass was put in. This never operated until about eight years ago when the EU gave a directive to open the fish pass, not knowing that this was a one-way street. The fish can get up the dam but cannot return. All the smolts hatched above the dam are killed when returning through the turbines. It is the only way they can return.

All the salmon going up the fish pass die above the dam. We have lost in the region of 4,000 to 5,000 salmon and millions of smolts since the fish pass opened. The EU were never aware that the fish pass was again wiping out the Lee salmon. There are probably fewer than 20 salmon between the Kingsley Hotel and the Inniscarra Dam. Dozens of anglers got texts on Saturday night telling them that some salmon had run the weir by the Kingsley. This was a big event.

In the 70s during a drought in June and July I saw about 1,000 salmon below Wellington Bridge along the Mardyke. The maximum load of 19 megawatts at the Inniscarra Dam was significant but today it is only a tiny proportion of our needs. In America they have removed hundreds of dams to preserve the fish. The fish pass must close in the short-term and long term the dam must be removed.

John Kerins

33 Tara Lawn

Glasheen Road



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