Posted by: fermoyweir | July 8, 2010

CAN FERMOY WEIR BE SAVED IN 50 DAYS?

The Avondhu has learned that engineers are currently looking at what needs to be done to save the Fermoy weir. A plan has been drawn up of work than can be undertaken and this plan is being forwarded to the fisheries board as the minister, in his directive, said that this body has to give the proposals the nod.

A conservation study is also taking place on the weir and it appears that when there is an agreement from the fisheries board and the heritage unit then work can go ahead.

The Avondhu spoke to Fermoy Mayor, Pa O’Driscoll and asked him if he thought the weir could be saved within 50 days: “The steps are being taken by the council executive to ensure that the OPW can undertake the work on our behalf. While it would be great to have the weir and fish pass repaired by the end of August, realistically I can’t see that happening,” Cllr O’Driscoll indicated.

ROWING CLUB RESPONSE

Members and committee of Fermoy Rowing Club were very relieved when Fermoy Town Council voted last month to accept its statutory responsibilities as the owner of Fermoy weir and agreed to fund the repair of the historic, protected structure.

The Avondhu spoke to Donal O’Keeffe a member of the Fermoy Rowing Club, who had the following comments to make in response to Cllr Michael Hanley’s statement in last week’s Avondhu.

“Councillor Michael Hanley, who is a long-time supporter of Fermoy Regatta, voted for the council to pay for the repair of the weir. He now suggests (The Avondhu 1/7/10) that, rather than the hard pressed rate payers of the town having to cover the cost of the repairs, the river users should instead pay some sort of tithe to the town council to cover the ongoing maintenance of the weir.”

“As a veteran of Fermoy Town Council and its predecessor, Fermoy Urban District Council, Cllr Hanley should be well aware that the town accepted the gift of Fermoy weir (and all of its attendant responsibilities) back in the 1980s. The weir is a protected structure and had the council agreed to take on the ownership of, say, a run-down but similarly listed building, then it would be equally responsible for the upkeep of that structure.”

STATUTORY OBLIGATIONS

“Successive councils having neglected their statutory obligations as the owners of Fermoy weir for the past quarter century, the current town council will now have to pay for the repair of the weir or see it removed and replaced by the preferred option of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Rock Ramp Pass.”

Mr O’Keeffe continued, “It is my understanding that the financing of Fermoy Town Council, and thus the annual running of the town, comes in main part from central government by way of a capital fund and that this is supplemented by way of rates and (in the case of Fermoy) by other means, such as pay parking. To suggest that it will be the rate payers alone who will be forced to pay for the repair of the weir is at best an over simplification and at worst disingenuous.”

EXTEND LOAN

“As an obvious short term solution perhaps the town council might talk to their bank manager about extending the loans on the Town Hall or car park as a way of covering their neglected statutory obligations.”

“Cllr Hanley is quite correct when he says that the weir is a structure which requires ongoing maintenance. He is, however, quite wrong to say, as The Avondhu quotes him, “now that the council is responsible for the weir” as the Council has always been responsible for it ever since they first thought that owning a weir would be a really good idea. As the owner of the weir, it was the council which allowed the weir and salmon ladder to fall into its current state of disrepair.”

Donal O’Keeffe concludes, “Tackling this problem may not be so easy. Last year I was part of a delegation which went, courtesy of then MEP Kathy Sinnott, to Brussels to try and get to the bottom of the spurious claims by government officials that “Europe” was ordering the removal of Fermoy weir.

Once we had disproven the claims coming from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (to the satisfaction of the EU and the Irish Attorney General) it was made very clear to us by EU officials that the riverbed east of the bridge is protected under the EU Habitats Directive.”

“On the matter of the east side of the bridge, Cllr Hanley is absolutely right that the gravel islands are indeed a growing hazard and are changing the course of the river. Whoever does actually own the riverbed could at this point nearly build a house out there.”

-The Avondhu (8/7/10)

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