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Shannon Extraction Pipeline Plans Published

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Shannon Extraction Pipeline Plans Published thumbnailA map showing the proposed route of the pipeline from Lough Derg through North Tipperary and Offaly en route to Dublin. MT45708JOC

THE DETAILS on the preferred route for a pipeline to supply Dublin with water from the River Shannon have been published this week, which reveals plans to create a reservoir and pumping station in North Tipperary.
When it was first announced five years ago that Dublin City Council had its eyes on extracting drinking water from the Shannon, the news stirred up great controversy in North Tipperary County Council at the time, particularly as the initial plans focused on Lough Derg as a main extraction point.
Those early plans, which saw a delegation from Dublin visit North Tipperary County Council in 2011, proposed extracting water from Lough Derg in times of flooding and pumping it to a new storage facility, which they proposed creating in an area of disused bog-land in Offaly and then pumped to Dublin.
That storage facility in Offaly, which would have been located in Garryhinch near Portarlington, was costed at €470-million and was proposed to also be a modern, continental style, eco-water park, as an offshoot of the storage facility.
Conservationists and a multitude of groups living alongside and enjoying Lough Derg, such as local fishermen, farmers and businesspeople, met the original announcement with concern and predicted that mass extraction from Lough Derg would have a devastating effect on the lake.
However, now the final draft proposal has emerged from Irish Water and those plans have changed considerably - with the main extraction point now changed to the Parteen Weir and no plans for a grand reservoir in Offaly - but instead a very scaled down storage facility in Birdhill and a pumping station in Cloughjordan in Tipperary.
Speaking only hours after the preferred route was revealed on Tuesday, Cllr Ger Darcy told the Tribune that from an environmental perspective the new plans are welcome because they will have less of an impact on Lough Derg; but that positivity was tempered with a prediction that navigating the choppy waters of compensating farmers who will be affected when the pipeline dissects their land, might not be plain sailing for Irish Water.
The route which Irish Water have chosen emerged after looking at nine different potential pipeline options, as well a water desalination plant in Fingal, were examined as potential solution to Dublin's ever burgeoning water demands.
Now, it's proposed the pipe will run from the Parteen Basin in the lower Shannon region to a termination point at Peamount in Dublin.
Irish Water announced they will hold public consultations on the proposed route over the next 14 weeks and the pipeline, which is expected to cost between €700-million and €900-million to build, is scheduled to be completed by 2024.
Irish Water expects that about 1,000 jobs will be created during the three to four year construction phase of the project, which aims to achieve 330-million litres of water being diverted each day from the Parteen Basin to supply the midlands, eastern, and Dublin region - equating to approximately 2% of the water flowing through the Shannon.
Irish Water say the fact that the water is to be extracted so close to the mouth of the river, and after it has flowed through Lough Derg, minimises the environmental impact of the scheme.
The extraction of the water will reduce the flow available for the ESB's hydroelectric station at Ardnacrusha by a marginal amount but Irish Water will compensate ESB for that loss.
THE ROUTE
The proposed pipeline is the first major new water upgrade for the eastern and midlands region in over 60 years.
The route envisages that the water will be piped the short distance from the Parteen Basin to a new water treatment plant to be built at Birdhill and from there it will be pumped to a new 'break pressure tank' which will be located near Cloughjordan.
The force of gravity will then carry the water from Cloughjordan across Offaly along a route close to the Laois-Offaly border and on to Peamount in Dublin, with the supplies also being made available to midland communities and towns close to the route.
Irish Water say that 40% of the population of the country, over two million people, will benefit from the new water supply channel, which passes Tullamore, Athlone, Mullingar, Portlaoise, Athy, Carlow, Navan, Drogheda, Arklow as well as the greater Dublin area.
Irish Water say they used computer analysis, including consideration of obstacles such as one-off housing, to identify the 'least constrained' 2km corridor capable of accommodating the pipeline between the lower Shannon and the Dublin region.
In that route Irish Water has identified a preferred 200m wide 'Preferred Pipeline Corridor' and within that a 50m temporary pipeline corridor, pending public consultation and negotiations with landowners for permissions and necessary way-leave agreements.
Irish Water is publishing its 'Final Options Appraisal' report which identifies the preferred route and also an 'Environmental Statement Impact Scoping Report' which considers the nature and likely scale of potential environmental impacts that may arise from the Preferred Scheme.
Irish Water is also embarking on a public consultation programme over the next 14 weeks seeking feedback and views about what should be considered in the Environmental Impact Statement, which will accompany its planning application for the scheme, which it expects to submit to An Bord Pleanala this time next year.
Cllr Ger Darcy from Tipperary County Council farms land himself in Ardcroney near Nenagh and, although not affected by the route himself, he anticipates some teething problems when the final hurdle of negotiating with landowners is faced.
Cllr Darcy says dairy farmers will be the most affected, because issues around access to a field where work on a pipeline is being carried out will be a great inconvenience.
'It's going to be an inconvenience to everyone, but most of all for dairy farmers, especially if their dairy platform is going to be transected by the pipe,' he told the Tribune.
'If a farmer is grazing land and he has to come in and out of that land four times a day to tend to his herd it will be a great inconvenience and I'm concerned about how each individual farm will be dealt with,' he said.
'I've had a lot of meetings with Irish Water over the last year and I think I'll be having a lot more now as all of this worked out with farmers in Tipperary,' he said.
However, Cllr Darcy welcomes the proposed plan when compared to the original plans to extract from Lough Derg.
'In terms of an environmental impact on the lake, this new plan is better. Originally the idea was to pump raw water to a reservoir in Offaly, but now the water will be treated close to the source, so any town or village along the route can have good clean water easily,' he said.
'But I do have some worries with how farmers are going to be affected regarding access to and later reclaiming their land,' he said.
Irish Water's Managing Director Jerry Grant said there is an urgent need for the new pipeline and said in a statement on Tuesday morning that Irish Water 'are very close to the limit' in the greater Dublin area and in many schemes across the midlands.
Cllr Seamie Morris is opposed to the proposals and said it 'will now unleash a ferocious campaign to protect the economic viability of the Mid west region.'
'The 2.3 metre pipes which will require a 50 metre wayleave will destroy farmers' lands forever which has led to the fight the pipe campaign. This attempted plundering of our most natural resource also ignores a Tipperary County Council Development contribution scheme put in place by myself which charges 1 cent per metre of water abstracted and €15 per metre of pipe installed in Tipperary in my abstraction tax, but yet Irish Water have decided to ignore a scheme that was recently reconfirmed by 40 Tipperary County Councillors in the new Tipperary County Council,' he said.

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