A Clare company seeking to develop a seaplane operation in Mountshannon has submitted further information requested by Clare County Council in relation to its proposal.
Harbour Air Ireland Ltd lodged a planning application with the local authority last November for the installation of a floating pontoon, mooring anchors, access gangway, reinforced concrete slipway and inspection hard standing, workstore, parking area and associated infrastructure for the berthing and inspection of a sea plane at Dooros, Mountshannon.
The application has been met with a number of local objections and there are 17 objections on the planning file.
Clare County Council sought further information in late January as there were concerns in relation to birds that are likely to be disturbed or injured by such an operation and the body stated that the applicant must consider and assess the likely impacts of disturbance on protected bird species.
The county council also noted concerns that such a development may have a negative impact on fish at this location and requested the applicant to submit an ecological assessment, which would comment in detail on existing fish species and stock levels on Lough Derg.
The applicant lodged their response with the planning authority last Thursday.
The company filed a nature impact assessment and a fisheries assessment and in these documents the consultant for Eir Eco Environmental Consultants concluded, “The proposed development will not result in disturbance to wintering or breeding waterfowl as a result of construction or operation and there are no regularly occurring listed birds occurring within the vicinity of the proposed development that would be threatened by the construction or operation of the facility.”
The document stated, “The operation does not present a risk of transfer of invasive alien species. There will be no negative impacts on any listed species including otters, bats, salmon, lamprey and freshwater crayfish. The potential risks to water quality arising from the proposed development are adequately mitigated for in the prescribed measures.”
Addressing concerns in relation to fish species the assessment stated, “The conditions in the vicinity of the proposed landing facility are unsuited as significant spawning, nursery or regular holding habitat for any fish species due to the sandy substrate, shallow depths and lack of macrophytes.
“The plane generates a wake not likely to exceed 75mm in height and will not result in any significant increase in wave action. The propellers of the plane are mounted on the wings or nose of the craft and there is no discharge of exhaust, etc, into the water. The area does not support freshwater crayfish or freshwater pearl mussel so there will be no impacts on these species,” the document detailed.
Among the concerns of locals and national bodies was the issue of invasive species; the applicants addressed this in their further information.
“Invasive species of plant and animal pose one of the most significant threats to the integrity of Lough Derg, which has already established populations of a number of invasive species, including the zebra mussel, Nuttall’s pondweed and the Caspian bloody-red shrimp. There is a potential threat of transfer of these species from Lough Derg to other sites, as well as the transfer of additional invasive alien species into Lough Derg.
“However, the risk of transfer of invasive species by seaplane is very low as the floating pontoons of the plane are fully aero and hydrodynamic and therefore not conducive to holding fragments of floating weed. Should the pontoons entangle any vegetation of other material while taxiing on the water these would be removed prior to take-off,” it stated.
The document goes on to discuss the risk in relation to water quality within the Lough Derg SPA area. It is explained that a risk could be posed resulting from construction and operation of the scheme without appropriate mitigation but that there are mitigation measures planned.
“During construction, the risk of pollution during pouring of the concrete slipway will be avoided by either the creation of a cofferdam around the structure to enable to concrete to be poured in the dry or by using precast panels dropped into place.”
Another concern raised locally was the issue of refuelling the planes in Mountshannon. This was also addressed in the file.
“Refuelling of the planes will take place occasionally at the site. Refuelling will take place under strict operation procedures and appropriate safety kits and spill kits will be located on the pontoon at the refuelling point. The pontoon will be fitted with an integrated spill tray, which will prevent any fuel entering the watercourse.”
A decision is expected on the proposed pontoon and slipway development by the end of the month.