QUESTIONS have been raised about plans to install a ‘tranquillity mooring’ at a location close to Holy Island, on the Clare side of Lough Derg. Waterways Ireland, who applied for permission at the end of last year, have been asked to explain how anti-social behaviour and noise pollution will be avoided. In addition, county planners have requested more details of how sensitive local sites will be protected. They have also asked Waterways Ireland to consider the cumulative impact given that the visitor plan for Holy Island provides for two 50-seater ferries taking passengers to and from Inis Cealtra.
Plans for one other moorings – one at Castle Bawn, Ogonnelloe – is also the subject of a Further Information (FI) request.
Plans for another mooring at Scariff Bay was also lodged last year. This has since been deemed invalid on technical aspects of the applications.
Consultants who worked on the mooring plan noted that the lake is currently used for recreational boating, mainly during the summer months. “Casual boat mooring occurs within quieter inlets outside of the existing navigational markers, with boats dropping anchor near parts of the shoreline,” they stated. “The proposed development aims to formalise mooring facilities in these areas, but discourage more casual mooring closer to the lake shore.”
A report submitted by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) noted that Lough Derg is already categorised in the Water Framework Directive (WFD) as being “at risk” in relation to water quality and the protection of fish stocks. It also recommended that Waterways Ireland should “detail how they plan to discourage casual mooring in other areas of the lake and whether a code of practice for the tranquillity moorings will be produced to make boat owners aware of the environment and their role in protecting it”. IFI also made a number of recommendations to minimise the environmental impact of construction.
Another document, this one from the Development Assessment Unit (DAU) of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, also flags ecological concerns. It has stated that there is “potential for new or increased disturbance of birds” and “wider cumulative effects on birds as a result of navigation and increased tourism, recreation and amenity on the lake and lakeshore”.
The DAU acknowledged the aim of Waterways Ireland to regularise the practice of temporary and casual mooring, but said, “the proposal has not set out how the practice of casual moorings will be stopped”.
Further concerns over the application were raised in objections from the Lough Derg Anglers Association and from a member of The Golden Eagle Trust.
In their submission the anglers association described tranquillity moorings as “a contradiction in terms,” saying “tranquillity for humans causes disturbance for wildlife and habitats and will cause habitat modifications and species transloction”. The document raised concerns about water and light pollution, as well as the possibility of people congregating at the moorings and using inflatables and jet skis. It also flagged fears about access for emergency services in the event of a serious incident.
A separate objection from Robert Foyle, a member of The Golden Eagle Trust, said the plans fail to take account of the activities of the White Tailed Sea Eagle (WTSE) Re-introduction Programme. Mr Foyle also described himself as someone with 50 years sailing experience and raised concerns that “unsafe, unregulated” moorings could create a hazard on the lake. He cited a large number of call-outs responded to by the RNLI and contended that there is “enough confusion already for inexperienced novices in hire cruisers and new cruiser owners”.
While detailed Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) and Natura Impact Assessments (NIA) have been submitted with the application, planners have now raised questions over their content. In a Further Information (FI) request, planners said there are “a number of critical gaps” in the information provided with the application. The local authority has asked for more detail on the potential disturbance to birdlife. It also asked Waterways Ireland to examine “the cumulative and/or in-combination effects of the proposed mooring in the context of the objectives of the Holy Island Visitor Management Plan which proposes two 50-seater ferries providing transport to and from Holy Inland”. “The landing pier and the crossing point are in close proximity to the proposed mooring structure,” the FI request stated.
Waterways Ireland now has six months to reply to the FI request from planners.