Posted by: fermoyweir | November 25, 2008

The Future Existence of Fermoy Weir is In Your Hands

The historic Fermoy Weir, which is a protected structure, will be demolished in 2009 by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources headed up by Minister Eamon Ryan TD.

Why are they doing this?

Fermoy Weir will be demolished under an E.U. directive on the preservation of habitats. Basically, the weir in Fermoy will be removed to ease the passage of migratory fish species. This approach is completely unnecessary as fish stocks passing the weir are above target with Salmon stocks being 7,500 above quota. Fermoy weir needs simply to be repaired with a second fish pass added at the north bank, not, as some may have you falsely believe, be completely wiped out.

What is the proposed alternative to the weir?

Minister Eamon Ryan’s department want to see the existing weir replaced with a rock ramp river pass. 62 meters long and 36 meters wide, this structure will be made up of zig-zagging and jagged boulders which serve to speed up the river flow and churn up the river. Rather than follow the present weir’s gentle, diagonal slant from the bridge, the new edifice would be rectangular and jut straight across the river, running parallel to the bridge where it would meet a concrete wall which would protrude above water level.

The proposed rock ramp would at its crest be approximately one foot lower than the existing weir, we say “approximately” as the Department have given, verbally, a variety of different measurements. The official drawings are not to scale and there are no measurements for height. The crest of the proposed rock ramp will also be crenellated, akin to the top of a sand castle, by seven two feet square holes. This will result in a total drop in water levels above the weir of very close to one meter. This drop in water levels will forever alter the river’s vista and destroy the landscape of Fermoy.

How will this effect fish stocks and the people of Fermoy?

All parties are in agreement that fish stocks in Fermoy are up, why?, because since the introduction of of a ban on drift net fishing was introduced Salmon stocks have flourished and this year a surplus of 7,500 salmon was recorded. The repair of the existing weir along with the introduction of another fish pass will ensure that fish stocks continue their resurgence. There is no need what so ever for any action other than this.

The removal of the weir will effectively see the end of Fermoy Rowing Club and its annual regatta. It would also have major negative effects on the local Triathalon club, Sub Aqua Club, the UCC Canoe Club, numerous kayakers, swimmers and others as all would be unable to use the river for their sport as the increased flow would lead to the very real danger that boats and swimmers would be sucked onto the rock pass and could be pulled under.

The removal of our weir would be an unforgivable act that will forever alter the town of Fermoy. It is the foundation of our town and must be protected. We urge you to do all that you can within the rule of law to ensure it’s survival.

We ask you to sign the petition posted on this site and to spread the word.

The very existence of Fermoy Weir is in your hands.

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Responses

  1. The decision to consider removing the weir is ill-thought out and does not take into account the impact on the river as a public amenity or the fact that it will destroy the habitat of over a dozen other species.
    This decision needs to be reconsidered and the Public of Fermoy widely consulted on the alternatives – for instance repair and modernise the weir.
    The people of Fermoy will fight this decision all the way.

  2. It would be an absolute tragedy to see the end of any public and sporting amenity, but to see the end of rowing in Fermoy, given its proud tradition and history would be catastrophic. How has this been allowed to get this far by local politicians?

  3. Hi I had a look at your web page having seen the letter in today’s Irish times. I support your appeals to have this structure remain. Giving the preservation of salmon stocks as a reason to remove this weir is clearly a fallacy given the black water is one of western europes best salmon rivers.

    I am however concerned at your referring to Lamprey as an “invasive” species. The Lamprey is a native species not an invasive one. It has just as much right to be in the river as an otter or heron and while not pretty is not really classed as a pest by any angling bodies. I would leave this reference out of your text as it does you no favours.

  4. I would like to point out that Fermoy Rowing Club has a better chance of remaining on the River Blackwater for the next 125 years than our native wild salmon, that use parts of this river to spawn and regenerate their stocks if the major environmental issue of Global Warming is as prolific as scientists make out, at present. As the negative effects of Global Warming become more evident year by year such as increased flooding etc., salmon stocks will also begin to decrease due to a combination of higher temperatures of the river water itself but also due to less dissolved oxygen in the water due to this increased temperature. Salmon like to spawn in cold, well oxygenated water and Experts from the Bord of Fisheries estimate that all riversvalong the south coast of Ireland, not only the River Blackwater will not be suitable for salmon stcoks within roughly the next 50 to a hundred years. Will the destruction of the weir under Fermoy bridge alter this fact? No..
    On another issue there is an alternative route for salmon and other river fish to migrate upriver which willbe lost forever if the removal of the weir in Fermoy goes ahead. This is the old mill race which starts outside Fermoy Garda barracks and eventually splits into a number of channels (3 )ownstream which in my opinion could be re-opened atvery little expense to the Dept. of Marine, Natural Resources and Energy and used for their proposed fish pass……..
    Finally in an attempt to anwer a query posted to this website’s petition page by Paul O’Leary back on 4th Dec (@ 03:36) as to who is behind this decision to destroy our weir, in my opinion it is due to the decision of one bloke in particular, who is the head of the Cork branch or offices of the Dept. of the Marine, Natural Resources and Energy in Mahon, Cork. Now I won’t give his name publicly, but he did tell me personnally, back in spring 2004 that if he had his way he would dynamite the weir in Fermoy (and Clondulane) to hell or high water (pun intended) in order to let salmon get upriver with less effort..
    I got the opinion at the time that this man is a salmon fisherman as he did not consider any other uses or benefits of the existing weir to other sporting clubs like Fermoy Rowing Club and canoeing clubs. So Paul, I hope this parially answers your query…..

    Finally Finally my congradulations and a well done to Donal O’Keeffe, Paul Kav, Pa Granville and many others in Fermoy RC for their effort in fighting the good fight, as someone else put it on another page.

    James
    Fermoy.

  5. Folks
    I fully empathise with your Campaign.
    About 6 years ago I lost a similar campaign against the bypassing of a weir and Mill race on the River Clodiagh Portlaw Co. Waterford.
    The fabulous engineering feat of the Malcomson family where there was a massive Water Mill with associated weir, fish pass etc. The fish pass was a beautiful structure in a walled garden that worked perfectly until the “mouth of the fish pass” became damaged due to neglect with the result that Salmon were finding it difficult to gain access to the fish pass.
    All that was needed was repair and maintenance of the fish pass and everything would have been saved but the South Regional Fisheries Board came up with the “brilliant” solution of bulldozing a river bypass past all this historical significant mill race, ( and they had the cheek to call this engineering!) we fought it all the way and brought the matter to An Bord Pleanal where we lost.
    The bulldozers did indeed move in and have done untold damage to this historical site, they still have not complied with the planning conditions of the permission, and something that we warned strongly against ie fallen trees and debris from an upriver forest are now causing blockages to the Waterford Council water intake scheme – the weir and mill race acted as a braking system on all of this debris up to that.
    The superstructure of the weir and mill inclu fish pass is still there but lies derelict and lifeless without its lifeblood supply of water.
    The Southern Fisheries Board should hang their heads in shame for what was done when there was a relatively simple alternative solution, but it didnt suit because because they would have to maintain it something they werent prepared to do!
    What a shame!

  6. I am a descendant of Fermoy’s Dennehy clan and have visited your gracious town. The peaceful bridge/weir scene is critical to Fermoy’s attraction to locals and tourists alike.
    Hearing that an unthinking outside government agency can create edicts that are incomplete and illogical in their reasoning, and harm the current natural balance between personal and environmental needs is mind-boggling. There must be well-connected people with roots in Fermoy that can assist (Michael Flatley?).

    From Venice, CA, all the best in your efforts!

  7. Fermoy Regatta may not be the blue ribbon event in Irish rowing but it is always one of the most enjoyable. As a family event it is ideal as you can walk the complete course and be relatively close to the competitors. I enjoyed as a competitor and now as a spectator with my family watching my daughter row.
    As Captain of Limerick Boat Club I can only say it would be a sad day to see the demise of Fermoy R C and its regatta to an action that is apparently not required.

  8. The weir is manmade structure which under certain flow conditions obstructs the passage of migritory fish. This is unacceptable nowadays and the species of significant interest and impacted the most by man, is the Atlantic Salmon -Salmo Salar “the leaper”. Whether this impact is by degrading water quality in our rivers, carryingout drainage and flood alleviation schemes, drift netting, or building weirs that stop them attempting to get to their spawning sites. It matters a lot as this iconic species that was so revered it was on the Irish coinage must be given all oppurtunities to survive without any more problems placed in their migritation route.

    There are plenty of other places to row so I am for the removal of the weir.

  9. Peter, the “certain flow conditions” to which you refer happened during a record drought in 2003.

    There has been a weir on the Blackwater in Fermoy since 1160.

    There has been rowing here since the 1830’s.

    There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence from local anglers to suggest that the abolition of drift-net fishing a couple of years ago has led to an unprecedented abundance of salmon upstream of Fermoy’s historic and listed weir.

    The DG Environment for the EU has stated, and it’s worth repeating, that the “complaint [which started this crisis] is in any case now closed, on the basis that the Irish authorities were addressing the issue.

    “The River Blackwater is a protected site under the Habitats Directive, 92/43/EEC, amongst other things for the conservation of salmon. Salmon need to be able to migrate along the river and to live and reproduce there.

    “The Irish authorities have themselves – independently of any complaint – formed the view that the weir is a barrier to salmon migration and are proposing to physically alter it to allow easier fish passage.

    “There is no European legislation that protects the weir as such. However, if there is a means of ensuring satisfactory fish passage and compliance with the Habitats Directive other than alteration of the weir, that is also acceptable.

    “This is one of those situations where a result must be achieved – satisfactory conditions for the salmon – but the Member State has a margin of discretion as to how best to achieve the result.

    “…[T]here is no explicit threat except that, if there is a serious problem for the salmon, the Commission could potentially take – or be asked to take – enforcement action.

    “It is always unfortunate if one conservation goal (here biodiversity) causes conflict with another (retention of a historic structure). [It is to be hoped that] a solution can be found which will reconcile the different interests involved.”

    The real problem here is that there is only one priority for the officials at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and that is that migratory fish be able to pass the weir.

    Seeing as the mandarins won’t be allowed to implement their stated ideal solution of just bulldozing the weir and lowering the river to its pre-1160 level, their preferred option is to install a rock ramp pass. This is a stepped series of zig-zagging shelves which would have the effect of churning up the water to better attract fish to the top.

    The pass as proposed by DCENR officials will lower the height of the river, according to the various Department apparatchiks, by a foot. Or six inches. Or a metre. Possibly. No, not a metre. Definitely not a metre. A foot. Yes, a foot at most. Well, a foot off the current height with a crenellated crest to the new pass with a series of two foot holes in it.

    So not three feet or a metre at all, then.

    There is a sort of Departmental group-think at work here. The only priority is fish. Not a near-millenium of history. Not the inspiring beauty of the Blackwater and Barnane, not the needs of the anglers or athletes who use the river on a daily basis and certainly not the concerns of the people of the town.

    The only solution is a rock ramp pass. They have them in Germany and sure we’ll have to have one too. Taxpayers’ money and schnapps. Oh lads, nothing but the best for us.

    If the only tool you have is a hammer, as the saying goes, pretty soon all of your problems start to look like nails.

    Members of Fermoy Town Council met with independent engineers yesterday with a view to producing an independent, alternative proposal. The Rowing Club President, John Murphy, who is a member of the council, was very impressed with the imaginative and lateral thinking of these consultants.

    The junior minister with responsibility, Sean Power TD, (FF Kildare South,) has promised to take on board the findings of this study.

    My own, personal, concern is that though the Minister seems to be a genuine and decent gentleman, his ultimate decision will be informed by the advice of the same Sir Humphreys who cooked up the Rock Ramp Agenda in the first place. So, I suggest, we’re far from out of the woods here.

    Therefore, I would ask that you contact your local councillor, TD, Senator or MEP and let them know as the elections approach just how strongly you and yours feel about this.

    As ever, thanks for all of your support.

    Regards,

    Donal O’Keeffe
    Hon. Secretary, Fermoy Rowing Club.

  10. Mr Lynch,

    In response to your comments, you seem to be knowledgable of fishing in your description of “the leaper” but you mustn’t be reading the facts, ie that the numbers of salmon upstream are increasing and in excess of catch restrictions etc.

    There is one thing you should know and it is that there are many prominent local fishermen who are opposed to the proposed structure being built and are in favour of repair and replacement. I would also wonder what your agenda is and where you are getting your information as it seems to be totally irrelevant to what is being fought for.

    We wish to save the weir by having it repaired and refurbished so your iconic species can continue to spawn as they have done for the last 900 years, passing over the weir on the river stretch of Fermoy.

    Kenneth Barry

  11. Whenever I return to visit my native Cahir in Co. Tipperary, I always find the time to visit Fermoy and stroll along the river bank… It is such a tranquil setting, and it is a joy to watch the rowers training and chat to the local and visiting fishermen.
    Please please leave the wier alone… Nobody wants it, except people that no nothing about it.. Spend the money on attracting visitors to the town, not keeping them away.. What a waste of money in these recessionary times.. Shame on you all if you destroy this treasure… Leave Fermoy alone !!!!!!

    Padraig Quirke…Czech Republic

  12. Plans for the removal of this weir are outrageous it is a beautiful structure and an important part of our industrial heritage. This would not happen in northern Ireland where there seems to be an integrated approach to water issues that takes cognisance of the various issues ecology, fish stocks heritage , etc. Check the Irish Central Fisheries Board,under the heading catchment management and their policy on a balanced approach I am part of a group currently attempting to repair a weir on the River Nore and bring the locks and sluice gates up to heritage level. Any suggestions?

  13. This smacks of using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. Common sense should prevail and the weir should be preserved for its beauty, functionality and historic setting. Fix it, don’t demolish it! Some of these so-called Green ministers are ministers from hell! They are so-convinced that they are morally right. They really worry me. Put a beggar on horse back etc….Gormley and Ryan should live up to their green credentials and stop pouring huge quantities of mass concrete (CO2 ton, per ton) into Irish rivers.

  14. donal and ken you need to study up on lamprey and the types of lamprey in the river and show both sides of the story an interesting fact there are more lamprey below the weir then above its not so much the salmon cant get up as you pointed out the brougth of 2003 but in fact the invasive lamprey a protect species nearly more so than the salmon.


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