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Kerry suffers from an ill wind

Locals in north Kerry are up in arms at the alleged role of a wind energy firm in the landslide that destroyed a river's salmon and trout stocks. Before the facts of what caused last week's landslide in a north Kerry river network were known, a nearby wind energy firm taking the brunt of the local anger. Prior to the landslide, Tralee-based company Tra Investments had begun site works for an eight-turbine wind farm in the Ballincollig Hill-Maghanknockane area. Within 24 hours of the slide, the company announced that it would commission an independent review into the incident, which it promised to make public.

Locals in north Kerry are up in arms at the alleged role of a wind energy firm in the landslide that destroyed a river's salmon and trout stocks.

Before the facts of what caused last week's landslide in a north Kerry river network were known, a nearby wind energy firm taking the brunt of the local anger.

Prior to the landslide, Tralee-based company Tra Investments had begun site works for an eight-turbine wind farm in the Ballincollig Hill-Maghanknockane area.

Within 24 hours of the slide, the company announced that it would commission an independent review into the incident, which it promised to make public.

But the aftermath of the slide, which damaged salmon and trout spawning areas in the river Smearlagh and may yet ruin fishing on the river Feale, was not the first time that the locals have clashed with the company. Some in the area have been opposed to the development since the company sought to erect a wind monitoring station on Ballincollig Hill.

Chief among their concerns, as raised in an objection to An Bord Pleanála in 2001,was the ‘‘peppering'' of the north Kerry area with windfarm development.

In its successful defence on that occasion, the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Locals in north Kerry are up in arms at the alleged role of a wind energy firm in the landslide that destroyed a river's salmon and trout stocks.

Before the facts of what caused last week's landslide in a north Kerry river network were known, a nearby wind energy firm taking the brunt of the local anger.

Prior to the landslide, Tralee-based company Tra Investments had begun site works for an eight-turbine wind farm in the Ballincollig Hill-Maghanknockane area.

Within 24 hours of the slide, the company announced that it would commission an independent review into the incident, which it promised to make public.

But the aftermath of the slide, which damaged salmon and trout spawning areas in the river Smearlagh and may yet ruin fishing on the river Feale, was not the first time that the locals have clashed with the company. Some in the area have been opposed to the development since the company sought to erect a wind monitoring station on Ballincollig Hill.

Chief among their concerns, as raised in an objection to An Bord Pleanála in 2001,was the ‘‘peppering'' of the north Kerry area with windfarm development.

In its successful defence on that occasion, the company noted that it was national and European policy to promote and develop renewable energy.

Section 4.36 of the Department of the Environment's windfarm development guidelines, which are issued to local authority planners, states that, where developers wish to install wind measurement masts and carry out wind resource analysis, they should be given planning permission for a two-year period.

Alternative wind energy may be preferred to oil and gas-driven energy at EU level, but that hasn't stopped the European courts from criticising the way Ireland has issued planning permission for some projects.

Ireland South MEP Kathy Sinnott demanded that the Department of the Environment rectify what the minister described as a ‘‘lacuna'' when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last month ruled that Ireland was in breach of EU laws by allowing permission to be granted on retention of developments.

The Luxembourg court had found that weak Irish planning laws were responsible for the major landslide at Derrybrien in Galway in 2003,which killed 50,000 fish and had a devastating effect on the landscape.

Critically, the ECJ ruled that the failure to insist that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) were carried out before projects begin was in breach of EU laws.

Also in breach was the often-used practice of granting retention permission to projects which breach the requirement to have obtained permission before building, it said. Building managers often apply for permission to retain a development after it has been constructed fully.

Whatever the parallels that are found between Derrybrien and the Stack Mountains, the site which was being operated by Tra Investments in the days before the landslide had not yet begun construct ion, although heavy machinery was working on the site.

Businessman William Kennedy, one of the company's directors, last week told The Sunday Business Post that they had no reason to believe that work on the site, where the company had secured permission from Kerry Council, was connected to the slide.

As a local man, who lives in nearby Ballyard, Kennedy said that he could understand why people living nearby wanted to know what had caused the landslide, in case further mass movement of the mountainside was imminent and could be prevented.

‘‘We [Tra Investments] are as eager as anyone else to get the report [commissioned by the company] done and made public," Kennedy said.

The company has commissioned Carlow-based geotechnical consultancy AGEC to undertake a study into the cause of the landslide. Kennedy said that work had resumed on the site in past days.

A number of investigations are being carried out into the cause of the landslide in the Stacks mountains between Tralee and Listowel.

The Central Fisheries Board (CFB), Kerry County Council and Tra Investments dispatched a combination of hydrologists and geologists who have expertise working in bogland areas to investigate the cause of the landslide.

Preliminary indications of the causes may emerge this weekend, but full results are due in coming days. Local landowners in the Maghanknockane area who objected along the way to the proposed windfarm were last week demanding that the council's investigation should focus on any association between site works at the Tra Investments site and the landslide.

Their initial concerns about the spread of windfarms on the mountain were overruled by An Bord Pleanála almost four years ago. In particular, they feared that heavy machinery and tonnes of compacted stone on the bog's surface could result in a landslide, representatives told the local Kerryman newspaper.

One local group petitioned the then EU environment commissioner Margot Wallstrom after the Bord Pleanála decision, but to no avail.

The causes of landslides are complex, experts say. In its 2006 report, on research conducted after the 2003 Derrybrien incident, the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) working group on Irish landslides noted that there was a wealth of possible causes.

These include conditioning factors such as bedrock geology; quaternary geology; hydrology; hydrogeology and land cover.

They also include triggering factors such as natural erosion, excessive rainfall - which certainly preceded last week's landslide - and, of course, man-made factors.

Whatever the cause, the devastation to local fish stocks in the tributaries of the Smearlagh river was considerable.

Despite varying estimates of fish kills, a spokeswoman for the Central Fisheries Board said that their scientists would only be gathering definitive data from tomorrow and Tuesday onwards, and that any numbers ‘‘bandied around'' were speculative.

Local fisherman Dan Shine, a long-standing member of the executive of Brosna and Mouncollins angling club on the Feale, described the Smearlagh river - which is a tributary of the Feale - as an important spawning point for the river Feale network.

Shine went fishing last week, just days after the landslide. ‘‘Above the Smearlagh, where you have Abbeyfeale district anglers, Tralee and ourselves, the damage wouldn't be anything like what might occur at the bottom of the Feale, around Finuge and Listowel," he said.

Measuring the actual cost to the fish population would be a long process, Shine said.

‘‘Salmon grow in a four-year cycle. They need clear gravel to spawn. After spawning, they eventually go out to sea, before returning as grilse [young salmon returning to fresh water] two or three years later."

‘‘So whatever might have gone wrong now may be apparent in adult stocks only, but the full effect of any damage to the salmon population might not be fully felt for four years," Shine said.

Shannon Region Fisheries Board chief executive Eamon Cusack last week said there was no doubt that several thousand young salmon and sea trout had been wiped out in the tributaries of the Smearlagh river.

Like Shine, he said that the full effect might not be felt for years, because of the cyclical nature of spawning. The Smearlagh in particular had good spawning stocks of sea trout and was an important spawning point for the river network.

The cost of cleaning the rivers and returning them to their original state could run into hundreds of thousands of euro.

Unlike other areas along the Shannon network where farmers hold fishing rights on their own land, the CFB owns the fishing rights along much of the Feale and rents this out to angling clubs.

The CFB owns the affected land, and will carry the burden of the clean-up, which it may seek to recover from any party found culpable in causing the landslide.

The landslide effect was diminished by a combination of good luck and quick thinking. The Feale and Smearlagh were swollen from rainfall, so the deposition of peat on the gravel beds of the Feale was almost certainly carried across a wider area and did less damage.


Source: http://www.sbpost.ie/post/p...

AUG 31 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/16843-kerry-suffers-from-an-ill-wind
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