Q&A

Will they really take away the Weir?

Deirdre de Bruin, from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, stated in her presentation to Fermoy Town Council on the 2nd of October and again at the public meeting in the Grand Hotel on November 18th that “were it not for the presence of Fermoy Rowing Club, the optimum solution was to remove the weir completely, It’s only a lump of concrete.” Brian Sheerin of the Southern Fisheries Board, at the same public meeting said “bulldozers are ready to come in and remove the weir tomorrow morning”

Does the current Weir affect flooding?

According to Office of Public Works (OPW) engineers, No

Will the removal of the current Weir have an enviornmental impact?

Yes. According to the OPW study carried out on the river, there would be a significant enviornmental impact.

Is the contract to remove the Weir included in the Flood Relief Plan contract?

No.

Can the Flood Relief Plan go ahead without the removal of the Weir?

Yes. The removal of the weir was never in the contracts for any phase of the flood relief plan.

Are we opposed to the Flood Relief Plan?

No.

Why would Fermoy Rowing Club not hand over their engineers plans to the Department last week?

Fermoy Rowing Club have employed Engineers to study the Departments plans. They received their plans from Dublin on the eve of the public meeting and had no opportunity to study them in detail with local Engineers prior to the meeting. They also wanted to provide and engineering solution, from a fish pass expert and former head of Department, which would be cheaper, more asthetically pleasing and a far safer solution acceptable to everybody.

What is the alternative solution put forward by Fermoy Rowing Club?

Our plan includes the retention of the current weir and water levels. The widening, repair and upgrading of the current pool pass to modern design standards. THe construction of two new pool passes, one to the western side of the bridge, on the northern bank (triangle field) and another on the eastern side of the bridge, on the southern bank (near the sluice gates, opposite the Garda barracks).The current Groyne pass needs to be replaced with one of a more modern design. Elver passed could also be built into the weir.

It is our expert’s opinion that these provisions would serve adequately for the passage of Salmon, Trout, Elvers, Lamprey and Shad. The rowers, canoeists, swimmers and tri-athletes could then all continue to enjoy our glorious Blackwater in harmony with our fishermen. The wheelchair boat will be able to continue unimpeded their brilliant service and the people of Fermoy will continue to enjoy the amenity that is beautiful Barnane.

So, What is it that we want?

We want ALL our public representatives at Local, National and European level to do everything in their power to support us so that the alternative proposal being put forward by Fermoy Rowing Club gets accepted.

Responses

  1. The Blackwater (around the Fermoy area) is a stable ecosystem and has been for 700 years (weir constructed by Cistercian monks circa 1302 AD). If there is a recent decline in numbers with migrating fish then it is silly to suggest something 700 years old is the cause of this. Removing the weir will have unknown consequences and certainly unbalance the stable ecosystem that currently exists. If this is Euro-buro(cracy) looking for something to do, I suggest another NO to Lisbon.

  2. I understand the Rowing Clubs concerns regarding their existnence. However, I’ve heard the proposed rock ramp will lower the water level behind Fermoy weir by only three and a half inches.

    How could lowering the water level by just 90mm affect the existing rowing club?

    Is it not just 1/5 of the weir that’s being lowered?

    When will the rowing club be making thier report available to the public?

  3. Dear Graham Spring,

    We have submitted our engineer’s report to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

    Three and a half inches? Please give me the provenance of your measurement. I have heard at least five different measurements from the Department and at this stage it’s reached Groucho Marx proportions.

    Groucho had this brilliant, self-righteous rant which he would finish in an absolute frenzy of complete and utter certainty.

    “These are my principles!” he would thunder, like God Almighty Himself. “And if you don’t like them!” he would roar, before then trailing off, “well… I actually do have others…”

    3.5, 3.9, 4.9. Surely I’m wrong to suggest that this is being made up as we go along.

    We, in Fermoy Rowing Club, have begged for a scale model of the proposed rock ramp pass. We have beseeched the Department Engineer to release to the public an artist’s impression of his proposed replacement of the weir.

    (Once the historic and listed structure has been demolished.)

    The answer from Mr John O’Keeffe has always been along the lines of “Well, it really is a very complicated issue and I don’t want to confuse people by bringing in facts and figures.”

    He admitted in the Grand Hotel during the ludicrously titled “public consultation” that his drawings lacked measurements for height and were not to scale.

    Okay then. I’m hardly the smartest person in any room, but I do have the bare scrapings of a Leaving Cert so my questions are the same as I asked Mr O’Keeffe in the Grand Hotel two weeks ago.

    “Is the crest of the proposed new rock ramp pass a foot lower than the crest of the current weir?

    “Yes or no?

    “Will the crest of the proposed new rock ramp pass be crenellated, akin to the top of a sandcastle, by seven two-foot by two-foot gaps?

    “Yes or no?

    “Does water find its own level?

    “Yes or no?

    “If by Archimedes and common sense water finds its own level, then will the level of the river upstream of the new, lowered, structure be up to one metre lower?

    “Yes or no?”

    Sorry now to be so rude as to introduce logic or reason into an argument, but thanks Graham for your questions.

    Would you like to meet with us in Fermoy and have a chat over a cup of coffee? You could see our weir and maybe take a trip up the river. We are very passionate about our river, our town and especially our club, but you will find us, Graham, to be an especially civil and kind-hearted bunch of people.

    Looking forward to meeting you in Fermoy.

    Yours sincerely,

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

  4. Donal,

    Why can’t the report be made available on this website? The people of Fermoy could then make up their own minds, rather than listening to opinions.

    I hope the department can also place a drawing of the weir on the website also.

    Out of interest, I looked up the Ireland’s archaeology database (website below) and fermoy weir is not mentioned?

    http://www.archaeology.ie/ArchaeologicalSurveyofIreland/TermsandConditions/

    “If by Archimedes and common sense water finds its own level, then will the level of the river upstream of the new, lowered, structure be up to one metre lower?”

    I don’t know what Archimedes had to say about the weir but he may not agree.

    Still water finds its own level but this is river with flowing water.

    Lets say you cut a 1 foot depth by 2 foot wide section out of the weir. You’d agree only a certain amount of water can flow through this section, therefore, it couldn’t drop the entire river by the 1 foot.

    I believe the same thing for the rock pass – only a certain amount of water can flow through the pass and the rest goes over the weir.

    Sorry Donal I’m not fan of coffee, I’ll probably see you at the protest Saturday.

    Regards

  5. Graham

    1 Why can’t the report be made available on this website? The people of Fermoy could then make up their own minds, rather than listening to opinions.

    The Report has being made available to the Department. The PEOPLE of Fermoy have made there own decision in regard to this issue 2000 and growing signatures says alot. It wasnt Savefermoyweir group that held back information it was local and national government staff.

    2
    I hope the department can also place a drawing of the weir on the website also.

    The only drawing of the proposed work given by the depatrments engineer was not to scale and any questions asked at the public consultation to this same engineer in regard to his drawing were side stepped and not answered as Donal has mentioned.

    2
    Out of interest, I looked up the Ireland’s archaeology database (website below) and fermoy weir is not mentioned?

    It has being officiall stated by Local authorities that the weir is a protected structure. More Clarification can be sought through Fermoy Town Council.

    3.
    Lets say you cut a 1 foot depth by 2 foot wide section out of the weir. You’d agree only a certain amount of water can flow through this section, therefore, it couldn’t drop the entire river by the 1 foot.

    The last time the weir was repaired was in the 1970’s where a foot by a foot hole was made. due to this hole rowing was ristricted and boats could not get above the rock (approx loosing half of the rowing training stretch) what will be the case if the crest of weir is reduced by 1 foot and there are up to 7 2 foot square gaps.

    We look forward in seeing you in Fermoy for our event on saturday.

    Regards
    Kenneth

  6. At the public “consultation” in the Grand Hotel, we were told that every hindrance to salmon migration had to be explored and action taken. They identified the weir as the largest obstacle.

    Had they never looked at the huge issue of the current mink infestation? Mink are one of the single biggest killers on the river, they are not a native species and present a threat to the delicate ecosystem of the river.

    Also, illegal netting and undeclared catches were never mentioned. I guarantee that if a total sweep of the river bank was taken, then illegal nets would be found. Just because it is illegal doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.

    Surely any one of the two problems above pose a greater threat than our weir???

  7. Dear Graham Spring,

    I think Ken has answered most of your questions.

    With reference to our engineer’s report, we did indeed make our suggestions available to the Department.

    At this stage, however, we have reached the point where it is the business of Fermoy Town Council to produce an alternative to the Department’s proposals. As a single organisation in the town we simply do not have the mandate to negotiate with the Department.

    As our elected representatives, it is the job of Fermoy Town Council, on behalf of the people of the town, to present a viable alternative and this was indeed the task charged to them yesterday (11/12/08) by Minister for State Sean Power.

    If you do make contact with Fermoy Town Council you might ask them to forward their report from Mary Sleeman from the County Archaeologist’s office.

    That report notes that the weir is listed as a Protected Structure in the Fermoy Development Plan 2004-2010. It further notes that “Fermoy Mill is a recorded Monument (RMP CO035-025) and the weir is an integral part of this” and “the weir is also adjacent to the bridge Fermoy Bridge (RMPCO035-073) and within the Zone of Archaeological Potential around the bridge.”

    Perhaps, Graham, we might both put our vested interests out in the open? That way our comments might be better weighed and judged by the context of our remarks and the backgrounds which inform our opinions.

    I’m sure my friend Colin, the man behind the curtain on this website, was only joking when he wondered to me today whether you had accidentally wandered in here while looking for http://www.destroyfermoyweir.com.

    My own rowing career consists of Sharon Bermingham and her now husband Jamie O’Connell dragging me into the trimmy about ten years ago and forcing me to row with them to Castlehyde.

    Once.

    Even with them carrying me, the fact that I’m still alive astonishes me to this day.

    I have been involved with Fermoy Rowing Club for fifteen or so years and while I suppose I have always been more Club than Rowing, I’ve loved every minute of that association (except for the bits I’ve hated).

    I became involved with the club socially. I helped to run the Club Bar for many years until changed economic realities forced us to close. And we’re now watching the growing recession with renewed interest.

    At this stage of my life the majority of my closest friends have at least a peripheral involvement with Fermoy Rowing Club.

    In my day job I work as a sales rep for Eircom. My apartment has a nice view (for the moment) of the weir. I read a lot, listen to too much Dylan and can draw.

    That’s me, Graham.

    Who are you?

    Regards,

    Donal.

  8. When a dam is removed the water level upstream becomes the same as that downstream. So remove the dam above the bridge and the Blackwater will once more become a river, not a millpond.

    This would also reduce flooding as the normal water level would be 2 meters or so lower.

    Try it for 10 years and see how it works

  9. The Blackwater in Fermoy has been weired, in one form or another, since approximately 1170.

    It is mentioned in the inventory of monasteries prepared for Henry VIII by Thomas Cromwell in the 1530’s. The weir in its current form was refurbished by John Anderson at the start of the 19th Century to power the mill on Mill Island (currently Quinn Healthcare). This gave the new town an industrial base and the mill is today a protected structure.

    As an adjacent site to the mill and an integral part of the bridge (also a protected structure) the weir enjoys “proposed protected” status according to the office of the County Archaeologist in Cork. In law this is the same status as protected.

    There has never been any suggestion from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources that the weir in any way affects flooding. The Office of Public Works was very anxious to emphasise this in its meetings with Fermoy Rowing Club and were at pains to stress that the only reason the removal and replacement of the weir was being included in the Flood Relief Plan only as “an act of administrative convenience”.

    After hundreds of years, the removal of the weir would present a catastrophic change to the ecology of the river. It would also be an act of wanton vandalism.

    “Try it for ten years”?

    Ask Senator Paudie Coffey down in Portlaw, Co Waterford, about the follow-up policies of the Sir Humphreys in the Department. He’ll be more than happy to confirm that once these vandals get their way they’ll never be seen again.

    The Southern Regional Fisheries Board (CEO Mr Brian “Bulldozers” Sheerin) is driving this agenda and their allies in the Department are more than happy to slander and libel the EU as long as they think they’ll get away with it.

    Kathy Sinnott MEP did us a huge favour when she asked a straight question and received a straight answer from Europe.

    She received information from the European Commission DG Environment, Law Enforcement Section, which proves that our suspicion that Europe is being scapegoated in this.

    I quote below:

    “[The EU] would not normally disclose a complaint itself [to ensure confidentiality of complaints]. The complaint 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 hoped that] a solution can be found which will reconcile the different interests involved.”

    Therefore the claim that Europe was standing by to slap daily fines of hundreds of thousands of euro on the Irish State is at the very best a gross distortion.

    As Deputy Sean Sherlock said in the Dail, (4/12/08,) “hiding behind the fallacy of a habitats directive is typical of a Government which has used the European Union when it wants to push through some bad proposals… the Southern Regional Fisheries Board is the main instigator and… is seeking to justify its position.”

    As has been said before, the SRFB seems to be working hand-in-glove with officials in the Department and they appear to be engaged in a crusade against weirs at a time when the British government is refurbishing weirs to harness them as a source of green energy. The irony here is that Eamon Ryan TD of the Green Party is the senior minister presiding over this.

    Sorry to repeat myself, but a fact remains a fact.

    Regards,

    Donal.

  10. I’m not fully abreast of the history and the ongoing protest, however noting Cian O’Meara’s comments above wher the weir was constructed some 700 years past…. is it not listed as a heritage site? if not why not ? if it is how are the powers that be Circumnavigating and destroying our history??

  11. Would love to hear about the current state of affairs on this if anyone would care to update.


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