Posted by: fermoyweir | September 16, 2010

CROWDS GATHER TO WATCH SALMON LEAP IN FERMOY

A large crowd gathered on the bridge in Fermoy to watch as hundreds of salmon fought their way up over the weir as The Avondhu went to press this Wednesday. The amazing sight held many spellbound as the fish jumped in an effort to clear the weir and head up river to spawn.

“It’s great to see so many salmon but we are lucky that the resent rains have increased the levels in the river or we could have faced the prospect of salmon dying in their hundreds as they tried in vain to get up river,” Chris O’Donovan of the Fermoy and District Anglers Association told The Avondhu.

The salmon could be clearly seen from the bridge in Fermoy as they leaped from the water below the weir. However, because of the condition of the weir, it is thought that many more salmon would be able to reach their spawning beds if the weir was repaired and maintained in the future.

“We have a wonderful natural resource here in Fermoy and we need to protect it for future generations. The council must ensure that the repairs to the weir are carried out quickly,” Chris O’Donovan said.

The Avondhu (16/09/2010)

Posted by: fermoyweir | September 16, 2010

RED HERRINGS IN FERMOY

Dear Editor,

“The build up of gravel downstream of the weir is one of the problems that is (sic) stopped the fish from coming up the river.”

So said the Mayor of Fermoy, Councillor Pa O’Driscoll (FG) in The Avondhu (9/9/10).

Seeing as the weir saga has its origins in Fermoy Town Council’s shirking of its responsibilities as the owners of the weir for a quarter of a century, then I suppose that an attempt to shift the narrative away from the weir (and toward aspects of the riverbed which might be beyond the town council’s remit) might well make sense to our councillors.

There is no doubt that the gravel islands east of the bridge are unsightly and are changing the course of the river. However, their proposed removal is likely to be problematical.

By way of explanation, I was part of a delegation to the office of the EU Environment DG to save Fermoy Weir (property Fermoy Town Council) last year and we were told that the riverbed is protected under the EU Habitats Directive.

According to Brussels, the gravel islands could be removed but only by way of forensic, non-mechanical intervention. In theory the people of Fermoy could, en masse, wade into the river with buckets and help themselves to river washed gravel. However, a JCB would constitute a violation of the EU Habitats Directive! Bad as they are, these islands present little challenge to kayaks at present.

They must be pretty big fish, Pa O’Driscoll’s salmon of knowledge, that they can’t make their way around the gravel islands. Is the Mayor sure he’s thinking of salmon and not red herrings?

Yours sincerely,
Donal O’Keeffe.
Fermoy.

The Avondu (16/09/2010)

Posted by: fermoyweir | September 2, 2010

THOUSANDS OF SALMON COULD DIE AS WATER LEVELS DROP AT WEIR

Fermoy salmon anglers fear that there will a repeat of summer 2003 when thousands of the species died below the weir, writes Brian Moore.

“The fact now is they are many hundreds of salmon are building up below the viaduct right down to the Cloundulane weir and even below it. The weather conditions are very similar to that of 2003 when the complaint was made to the EU. We anticipate a similar crisis this autumn unless there is a lot of rain and the river level rises,” Chris O’Donovan of the Fermoy Trout Anglers told The Avondhu.

WANTED TO AVOID

A spokesperson for Inland Fisheries Ireland said that this situation was just what the proposed rock ramp would solve.

“This is a huge concern for the Inland Fisheries Ireland and this situation is exactly what we wanted to avoid,” Susan Campion, business development manager at Inland Fisheries Ireland, told The Avondhu.

“The rock ramp is the solution to the problem but the town council who own the weir have elected to repair the weir. The question is when?

“Right now the water levels have trapped hundreds of fish below the weir, the council would need to start work now while the water levels are low to ensure that these fish can get up the river.

“If nothing is done then there will be a repeat of 2003 with hundreds of fish dying below the weir. It is with in the remit of Inland Fisheries Ireland to prosecute Fermoy Town Council and the minister can direct the council to remove the blockage on the weir to save the fish,” Susan Campion concluded.

SEND IN BULLDOZERS

“Minister Lenihan will send in the bulldozers to destroy the weir if this happens. We have vested interest in water levels above the weir as we have the highly successful wheelie boat operating upstream.

“At present the levels are, indeed, very low and we have problems getting wheelchair bound persons on board, the minister says the removal of Fermoy weir would drop water levels by five inches , if this was to happen then the wheelie boat would become obsolete,” Chris O’Donovan continued.

“Speaking with Mr Ned O’ Keeffe TD, I have learned that the town council have earmarked February of next year to start remedial work on the weir, but this will be too late again if we have a recurrence of 2003. Just send in a small digger and take out the fallen old concrete wall on the base of the fish pass and the crisis will be diverted. There are local contractors who could do with the work,” Mr O’Donovan concluded.

The Avondhu 2/9/10

Posted by: fermoyweir | August 31, 2010

Deadline for repair of Fermoy Weir passes

“I love deadlines”, the sadly departed Douglas Adams used to say, “I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

This Tuesday at midnight the deadline to repair Fermoy’s historic weir passed.

To repeat the facts: in 2003 migrating salmon were unable to traverse Fermoy Weir. An anonymous complaint to the EU led to officials from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (as it is now) claiming that nothing less than the demolition and replacement of the weir, and with it the subsequent lowering of the river upstream, would satisfy Brussels. Officials claimed that Ireland would be fined millions of Euro if the weir wasn’t blown out of it and replaced with a lower structure, a rock ramp pass.

(Sean Sherlock TD has repeatedly suggested on the Dail record that the initial, anonymous, complaint may have come from the Southern Regional Fisheries Board as a means of perpetuating its own survival. The SRFB has yet to contradict the Deputy’s suggestion. Freedom of Information requests were hampered by the reported loss of documentation to “flooding”.)

The people of Fermoy, awkwardly enough, didn’t accept the Department’s version of reality and spoke out loudly and often in their opposition to the removal of John Anderson’s weir. Members of Fermoy Rowing Club and local angling clubs, courtesy of outgoing MEP Kathy Sinnott, travelled to Europe last year to discover that the EU had never specifically sanctioned the Department’s preferred solution.

Leaving aside the far more serious impediment to fish migration at Careysville, all sides agree that the weir, the structure around which the modern town was built, is badly damaged and is in urgent need of attention. Last Christmas saw Minister of State Conor Lenihan concede that a simple repair of the weir would satisfy Europe and get the problem off his desk. To this end, Lenihan told the owners of Fermoy Weir, Fermoy Town Council, that he was giving them twelve months to fix the weir.

For conservation reasons, the Southern Regional Fisheries Board will not allow in-river work after the end of August, so the Council had a clear window and a clear deadline. Instead the gamble has been taken that this isn’t really an urgent matter and sure as long as we are seen to be doing something, won’t that do ye?

And now our worst fears may be coming to pass. Water levels in Fermoy are as low as they were in 2003 and we hear, anecdotally, that the Southern Regional Fisheries Board may have a JCB on standby to knock the weir, should they judge its destruction necessary for the migration of salmon.

Last year Minister Martin Mansergh caused annoyance when he advised worried property owners on the South Bank of the Blackwater that, until the entire Flood Plan is finished, the best thing they could do is pray for dry weather. Ironically, those of us who campaigned to save the weir are now left with little better hope than praying for the opposite.

Donal O’Keeffe.

Posted by: fermoyweir | July 29, 2010

TOWN COUNCIL HAS NOT CONTACTED MINISTER ON WEIR ISSUE

By Brian Moore

Minister Conor Lenihan has not received any notification from Fermoy Town Council that work on the weir will not begin this year. In a statement from the department a spokesperson said that as far as they were concerned work on the weir was to begin this year as part of the deadline set by the Minister.

“I wish to confirm that the minister has not received a formal timetable of works from the town council and neither the department nor the IFI (Inland Fisheries Ireland) have been informed of any intention not to begin works in 2010,” a spokesperson told The Avondhu.

Fermoy Rowing Club secretary Donal O’Keeffe is disappointed at the lack of urgency shown by the town council concerning the repair of the weir.

“It strikes me that Fermoy Town Council is taking a big gamble here. The clock has been allowed to run out on Minister Lenihan’s deadline and the future of the River Blackwater has been placed in the hands of the fisheries board, the very body whose stated intent is the removal of the weir. We would ask that the council make available to the public the plans being currently hatched between them and the fisheries board.

“From the rowing club’s perspective our primary concerns are safety and water depth. So long as water levels and flows remain unchanged on the western side of the bridge then our main worries will have been addressed. However, as townspeople, we would still have concerns about the aesthetic and historic aspects of the weir,” Mr O’Keeffe said.

“I was unaware that the Minister had not been contacted by management at the town council and I will want to know why this has not happened,” Cllr Noel McCarthy told The Avondhu.

“The weir does not belong to the Minister but to Fermoy Town Council. We sent the minister a letter outlining that a plan for work on the weir would be forthcoming and his department acknowledged this letter,” Cllr Tadhg O’Donovan told The Avondhu.

The Avondhu, 29/7/10

Posted by: fermoyweir | July 29, 2010

Avondhu Letters to the Editor 29/7/10

WHO PAYS FOR THE WEIR?

Dear Sir,

A few short years ago, we, as a group of concerned locals attempted to preserve traditional river rights against a very well planned attempt by others to exclude the public from waters below the weir.

We can assure you that the potential revenue from controlling and renting out salmon fishing is huge, that is why it is so contentious.

At the time we sought help from Fermoy Town Council as we were convinced that traditional use by the public over the generations ensured this asset belonged to the people of the town. The council, not having the backbone, chose collectively not to rock the boat, and for some reason would not question the individual’s claim to ‘title’.

As part of the claimant’s strategy four of us were selected for prosecution and in the Circuit Court in Mallow their barristers put us in a situation where we were given a choice of backing down or putting our family homes at risk. Needless to say we had no choice and left court that day with very bitter hearts.

Our case was genuine and it was taken at great cost to ourselves. Moral support from that spineless town council at the time would have ensured that at least the claimant’s ‘title’ would have been checked and the public’s traditional rights would be preserved.

It is now laughable to hear members of Fermoy Town Council proposing a ‘River Authority’ to manage an asset that we fought so hard (and thanks to them, failed) to preserve.

They talk of asking all river users to fund the repair of the weir (a structure that was ‘gifted’ to a foolish town council some years ago when imminent repair costs made it an albatross round the necks of the then owner).

We would suggest now that those who used the legal system of this country to get their hands on an asset of immeasurable value, foot the repair bill or return the asset to the people of the town so they may manage it to fund the maintenance of the weir, now and going into the future.

Signed,
Martin O’Connor and Niall O Liathain.

RE: FERMOY HOUSE TARGETED BY VANDALS

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to an article that was in your newspaper under the heading ‘Fermoy houses targeted by vandals’.

I am a resident of St Mary’s Terrace and have been for the last one and half years and have nothing but praise for the terrace and the people that live in it.

I would like to know what Cllr Colman’s agenda is all of a sudden by saying that the empty houses have become a target for antisocial behaviour? Anybody can come in to our terrace and walk up and down and not see one broken window or door. Some of the gardens are over grown in the empty houses but are kept fairly clean by the council staff.

While most of us living in the terrace would like to see the old houses being done up and given out and put to good use, we are happy enough with the proposed future developments, which we were told would take time.

Cllr Coleman, I would suggest for you to stop looking to justify your job in the council by trying to pick faults in our terrace, which don’t really exist and maybe use some of your time to help in solving the problem with the weir.

In two years time or five years time these houses will still be here finished or unfinished unlike the weir if ye don’t do something about it.

John Bowes,
St Mary’s Terrace,
Fermoy.

Posted by: fermoyweir | July 23, 2010

WORK ON FERMOY WEIR SET FOR NEXT YEAR

The Southern Region Fisheries Board has accepted that works will not be carried out this year on Fermoy weir.

The OPW has accepted the scope of the project and have given it to design consultants who will refine the scope to allow it to be tendered. A heritage officer will be involved as it is a special area of conservation.

At the Fermoy Town Council meeting on Tuesday evening, the councillors expressed their relief at the news. Cllr Olive Corcoran advised she was delighted at the news but worries that down the road there may be more money required than anticipated.

Cllr Noel McCarthy reflected his relief at the news saying: “I am happy that the weir is in our hands and will be repaired by us.”

Cllr Aileen Pyne said she was a bit dubious as Minister Lenihan made it clear that work had to be done in 2010.

“We need to write to him and make him aware of the progress that has been made to date, so he fully understands that the work will not be done until 2011,” she said.

The Avondhu Thursday 22nd July 2010

http://www.avondhupress.ie/story6.html

The chances of repairing the weir in Fermoy before the deadline set by Minister of State Conor Lenihan are not looking good. Minister Lenihan’s deadline will expire this August and Fermoy Town Council have yet to finalise the report, which will cost the work, that needs to be carried out.

“To date we still don’t know how much needs to be spent on refurbishing the weir,” the Mayor of Fermoy, Cllr Pa O’Driscoll told The Avondhu.

“The engineering department is currently working on the surveys of the weir and then the work will be handed over to the OPW. I am hoping that we will have this report and a final costing on the proposed work in a matter of weeks but realistically I can’t see work beginning on the weir within the next 50 days,” Pa O’Driscoll continued.

Not convinced Cllr Noel McCarthy is not convinced that the Minister is expecting the work to be completed within the next 50 days, “I would expect that the Minister knows that the council have now taken over the weir, that the surveys and planning is underway and that work will begin as soon as possible. This is what the Minister expected and now this is underway, I don’t think the Minister realistically expected the work to be completed this year,” Cllr McCarthy said.

In a statement from the Minister’s office read, “The Minister of State has received no update from the town council since issuing his direction. He has been advised that this matter is being progressed, with a meeting last week between the council and the staff of Inland Fisheries Ireland from Clonmel. The council are to submit preliminary plans to the IFI staff over the coming weeks for assessment and detailed specification.”

ROWING CLUB ADAMANT

Secretary of Fermoy Rowing Club, Donal O’Keeffe is, however, adamant that the Minister’s deadline was for the repair of the weir and not for the town council to begin its work, “Minister Lenihan set this deadline for a reason and it is our understanding that if this is missed by the council then the Minister would let the work to the Fisheries Board and their plans to install a rock ram.

“Last December Minister Conor Lenihan gave Fermoy Town Council a deadline of 31st December, 2010 to repair the weir, a protected structure in the council’s ownership, or see the Department’s preferred solution imposed upon the town. Legal and environmental concerns regarding the migration of salmon preclude any in-river work after the 31st of August,” Donal O’Keeffe told The Avondhu.

WRITTEN DISPENSATION

“The Mayor’s admission that the work will not be completed, or possibly even begun, by the 31st of August begs the question: has the town council secured from the Fisheries Board a written dispensation to carry out in-river work after that date? If not, has the town council received from Minister Lenihan a written extension of the December 31st, 2010 deadline?” Mr. O’Keeffe continued.

Meanwhile the mayor has echoed the calls by Cllr Michael Hanley to set up a Fermoy River Authority, “I would support this proposal. It would be very important that all the different groups, which use the river, are involved in the development of this resource. The river has huge potential to develop for recreation and tourism in the town and I would like to see more done to enhance this sector in Fermoy,” Pa O’Driscoll concluded.

CALL FOR FUNDRAISING

As to the unknown cost of repairing the weir, Cllr Noel McCarthy is calling on the clubs and associations which use the river to fundraise and donate to help pay for the repairs to the weir.

“I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect the clubs and associations to help with the costs of repairing and maintaining the weir on the river. It should not be left solely to the rate payers in Fermoy to cover the costs of repairing the weir,” Cllr McCarthy said.

SACRIFISED FUNDS

In response to Cllr McCarthy’s calls for fundraising, Donal O’Keeffe told The Avondhu, “We are way ahead of the councillor. Since 2006 Fermoy Rowing Club has spent in the region of €30,000 in its campaign to prevent the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources from demolishing the historic, protected structure and replacing it with a rock ramp pass. As a small, voluntary sports club we have been forced to sacrifice badly needed funds to safeguard the future of our club.

“To suggest that it is unfair on the rate payers to expect them to pay for the weir repair is an argument that could be made about any other aspect of the council’s remit. What about the swimming pool? The car parks? What about our new town hall? Was there a lot of concern about the rate payers when millions were spent on that structure?”

“Ultimately, the weir is the property and responsibility of Fermoy Town Council and it has been since the urban district council accepted the gift of it a quarter of a century ago. Successive councils neglected the structure and it is now in a state of disrepair. If the council wishes to see it saved, as they have voted to do so, then a sense of urgency would be welcome even at this late stage,” Mr. O’Keeffe concluded.

The Avondhu, 15th July 2010.

Posted by: fermoyweir | July 13, 2010

The late Pat Rice

 http://www.independent.ie/obituaries/pat-rice-2254234.html
 

The late Pat Rice

 
It was with great sorrow that we in Fermoy Rowing Club learned on Thursday that our dear friend Pat Rice had passed away. 
 
Last Sunday was the first time in many a year that Pat was in Fermoy for our Regatta. It was a beautiful day and Pat told us that he was delighted to see so many boats on the Blackwater river. Admiring the modern facilities of our Clubhouse, he joked that it was a long way indeed from the old tin hut he had trained in so many years ago.
 
Watching the races, Pat noted our old tradition of honouring our late members by naming boats after them, recognising the names of many old friends and recalling happy times past. Pat was especially happy to be at Fermoy Regatta to present a trophy to his nephew Liam. 
 
Pat rowed with Fermoy over forty years ago and his many friends from that time remember a kind, soft-spoken young man who was a determined and committed athlete. They recall a warm and decent friend who would always go out of his way to help people. He had, even then, the great generosity of spirit for which he would be known throughout his life.
 
The Greek Statesman Pericles wrote “that which you leave behind is not that which is engraved into stone monuments, but rather it is that which is woven into the lives of others”. Pat was an extraordinary man, an incredibly brave, selfless and tireless defender of other people and a man who leaves behind a remarkable legacy of courage, love and fearlessness in the pursuit of justice.
 
Pat stood on the balcony of our Clubhouse on Sunday, in the company of old friends, and he looked out at our river in the glorious sunshine. He told us that he was going to walk along the bank of the Blackwater one more time before he went home, because he didn’t know the next time he would have the chance to do so. 
 
Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Fatima, and with his children Carlos, Amy and Blanco.
 
May Pat rest in peace.

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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