Thursday, 27 November 2014
Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
215. To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources further to Parliamentary Question No. 1083 of 4 November 2014, the position regarding plans to dredge the River Shannon at Lanesborough, County Longford, to remove the infestation of Asian clam; the implications for the delay in removing this invasive species; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45613/14]
Since the initial confirmation of the presence of Asian Clam in the “hot water” stretch of the River Shannon at Lanesborough, Co. Longford, Inland Fisheries Ireland’s (IFI) has co-ordinated actions of a range of State bodies, including the design and build of a disinfection station prototype and four units, funded by ESB, and the fishery has since reopened with strict biosecurity conditions including the prohibition of keep nets at the site.
Alien invasive species are a relative new issue that Irish public bodies have had to address and while IFI does not have a statutory remit as regards such species, it continues co-ordinating the comprehensive multi-agency response to the infestation and has been facilitating and chairing meetings of the Agencies since the infestation was discovered. This group includes the IFI, the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), the Office of Public Works (OPW), Roscommon County Council, Longford County Council, Bord na Mona (BNM), the ESB and Waterways Ireland (WI).
A detailed scientific assessment of the nature and extent of the infestation has been completed and based on this assessment the Agency Group agreed a dredging operation of the “hot water” stretch. The possibility of a dredge operation on the navigation cut to Lough Ree is also being considered by the Group.
The Agency Group has worked on a plan to carry out a trial dredge operation on the “hot water” stretch. This trial is required to inform on the feasibility and success rate of the method(s) to be used in any larger scale operation, the method of disposal of the material collected and the overall funding that will be required to conduct the operation including disposal.
The trial operation has required a number of matters to be resolved, including:
1. Categorisation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the material for disposal to determine where and how it can be disposed of and the cost of disposal. Substrate samples were obtained by IFI with the assistance of the ESB, and BNM. These samples are currently being analysed.
2. Both Longford and Roscommon County Councils are investigating potential disposal locations and BNM is also investigating the suitability of one of their sites.
3. Waterways Ireland has indicated its preparedness to carry out the trial dredge operation with the support of the Agency Group once the disposal requirements are determined by EPA. Progress has also been achieved in finalising the methodology and appropriate screening with WI, NPWS and IFI.
4. The possible onset of deteriorating weather and water conditions is a concern for all agencies but they are confident that the trial dredge will proceed shortly.
IFI, on behalf of the Agency Group, has kept local stakeholders advised of developments as they occur and will provide further update closer to the commencement of the trial operation.
However, as emphasised in the response to Questions Nos. 1082 and 1083 of 4th November last, it is important that all understand that Asian Clam, like many other aquatic invasive species, is extremely pervasive in the environment, and once in a water body it is likely that operations will be focused on managing the infestation rather than eradication.
I visited the site shortly after the outbreak was discovered and met local representatives and community leaders. I would commend them for their proactivity and positive engagement with the State Agencies in relation to this matter.