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#INLAND WATERWAYS - The "main thrust" of waterways refurbishment is still focused on the re-opening of the Ulster Canal from Lough Erne to Clones, according to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Responding in writing to a Dáil question from Kildare South TD Jack Wall regarding plans for the development of Ireland's canal system under Waterways Ireland, Minister Jimmy Deenihan confirmed that the Ulster Canal Project is still top priority - despite the Government's U-turn on its commitment to cover the full capital costs of the scheme, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

The minister commented: "Since its formation in 1999, Waterways Ireland has continued to upgrade the facilities on the canals through the capital allocations under the National Development Plans. The canals system has benefited extremely well during that time, particularly with the number of additional mooring and landing spaces that have been made available. The provision of further mooring space will be dependent on available finance and priorities over the coming years."

Minister Deenihan said his department's capital allocation for Waterways Ireland is €4.5 million which "will facilitate continued investment in the development and restoration of the inland waterways".

He added that Waterways Ireland is also "undertaking feasibility studies on the Kilbeggan Branch of the Grand Canal and on the Longford Branch of the Royal Canal" which are due to be completed by the end of 2013.

With reference to staffing levels among lock keepers, the minister said: "I am informed by Waterways Ireland that there are 20 lock keepers employed at present on the Grand Canal and Barrow Navigation. A number of staff have retired recently and decisions on their replacement will be taken having regard to the business needs of the organisation.

"I understand that Waterways Ireland is not planning to recruit lock keepers at this time. Any posts filled will be either by internal transfer or external recruitment, depending on the particular circumstances."

The minister also commented on waterways traffic, noting that boat traffic numbers "have remained fairly constant over 2009 and 2010" and that in 2011 "numbers increased by 30% following the re-opening of the Royal Canal".

In addition, he emphasised "the fact that access was available to the Tall Ships event in Waterford".

Published in Inland Waterways

#JOBS AND CAREERS - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is seeking to recruit a number of staff as Fishery Officers nationwide for a maximum period of four months during 2012 and will shortly commence a process to fill these positions.

The Fishery Officer will be primarily concerned with the implementation and enforcement of the provision of the Fisheries Acts, Water Pollution Acts and other relevant statutory provisions.

He or she is required to provide, in co-operation with other fisheries staff, comprehensive conservation and protection services, as well as improvement, development and fisheries management support services, both inland and at sea, within any part of a fisheries district and/or any other area assigned within one or more fisheries districts.

The Fishery Officer is also expected to assist either directly or indirectly in fisheries-related research projects.

Salary at the first point of the Fishery Officer Scale is €22,349 plus an Unsocial Hours allowance, which will be paid at either 50% or 100% relative to the number of unsocial hours worked.

Applications should be mailed for the attention of Ms Sandra Doyle, REF: HR/FO/2012, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Swords Business Campus, Swords, Co. Dublin or by e-mail to [email protected] by the close of business on Tuesday 24 April 2012.

For further job details contact Sandra Doyle at 01 8842 612. Please note that late applications will not be processed.

Published in Jobs

#INLAND WATERWAYS - Trial dredging operations to curtail the spread of Asian clams at designated sites in the lower River Barrow are set to conclude today.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) employed the use of a a traditional cockle harvesting boat to physically remove the clams from the river bed, in an effort to explore methods of controlling or eradicating what it describes as an "ecosystem-changing invader" in other infested waters.

IFI scientists supervised the trials, using teams of divers to quantify the result of the dredging efforts.

The Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) is "a most unwelcome addition to the fauna of the lower River Barrow". The bivalve mollusc is regarded as "one of the most notorious aquatic invasive species in the world".

First recorded in the river downstream of St Mullin’s in April 2010, subsequent IFI studies have revealed that the Asian clam is firmly established in the lower Barrow and in the River Nore downstream of Inistioge. Populations have also been recorded in the River Shannon and in Lough Derg.

In one section of the River Barrow the clam has achieved a "staggering" density of almost 10,000 per square metre.

Dr Joe Caffrey, senior scientist with IFI, said of the trial dregding: “It is imperative that every effort is made to control the expansion and spread of this highly adept invasive species.

"The results from these trials will inform future national management plans for this most unwelcome non-native species and will, at the very least, dramatically reduce the numbers of individuals in the test sites.

He added: "In tandem with these trials, research effort is being focused at producing other control methods that can be targeted as this species.”

Published in Inland Waterways

#RESCUE - Four people were rescued on Lough Erne yesterday after their motor cruiser ran aground in the second such incident in a week, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

All on board were retrieved by RNLI lifeboat from the 29ft cruiser, which is believed to have stranded on rocks beyond the marked channel of the lough.

No injuries or damage to the vessel were reported, with a Northern Ireland Coastguard spokesperson describing it as "a routine rescue".

The coastguard blamed low water levels in the lough caused by lack of rainfall in Co Fermanagh.

Waterways Ireland has posted a marine notice warning boat users of the risks posed by "the extended period of unseasonal dry weather" for Ireland's inland waterways.

In a similar incident last Friday, three adults and two children were rescued from a cruiser that stranded in shallow water on the lough.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

Published in Rescue

Waterways Ireland is advising navigation users that the extended period of unseasonal dry weather has meant that water levels in the navigations are presently lower than normal for this time of year. A Marine Notice has been issued and can be found on www.waterwaysireland.org. An additional Marine Notice has also been issued for the closure of the 34th and 35th levels of the Royal Canal due to for repairs and the summit level due to low water levels.

As the boating season is about to get underway masters and users are advised of the implications of continuing dry weather on water levels. If water levels fall below normal summer levels, masters should be aware that their vessels may be at risk of grounding, particularly deep drafted vessels. Where possible masters should navigate on or near the centreline of the channel and also avoid short cutting in dog-legged channels and navigating too close to navigation markers.

Proceeding at a slow speed will also reduce "squat" effect i.e. where the vessel tends to sit lower in the water as a consequence of higher speed.

Low water levels will also impact on slipways with reduced slipway length available under the water surface and the possibility of launching trailers dropping off the end of the concrete apron onto the river /lake bed and causing damage to trailer, outboard motor or boat. More slipway surface will also be susceptible to weed growth requiring care while engaged in launching boats.

In the interests of reducing potential water loss, users passing through locks are requested to maximise on the number of vessels in a lock. Please be patient and wait for other boaters to share the lock with you rather than using locks for sole passages. In addition, if possible make sure lock cycles are used for vessels travelling each way. Each lock cycle should take boats both up and down stream. Shut all sluice gates and paddles when leaving a lock.

Very dry riverbanks are more susceptible to erosion from vessel wash. Please ensure you adhere to the speed limits and maintain a reduced wash. Users are also requested not to leave taps running at watering points or service blocks in the interest of water conservation.

More information may be sought from the Inspector of Navigation Tel: 00 353 (0)90 6494232.

Published in Inland Waterways
Tagged under

Waterways Ireland has issued a notice to boaters on all navigations about low water levels. The extended period of unseasonal dry weather has meant that water levels in the navigations are presently lower than normal for this time of year. As the boating season is about to get underway users are advised of the following:

Navigation

If the dry weather continues and water levels fall below normal summer levels masters should be aware that their vessels may be at risk of grounding, particularly deep drafted vessels.

To reduce this risk masters should navigate where possible on or near the centreline of the channel and also avoid short cutting in dog-legged channels and navigating too close to navigation markers.

Proceeding at a slow speed will also reduce "squat" effect i.e. where the vessel tends to sit lower in the water as a consequence of higher speed.

Slipways

Low water levels will also impact on slipways with reduced slipway length available under the water surface and the possibility of launching trailers dropping off the end of the concrete apron onto the river /lake bed and causing damage to trailer, outboard motor or boat. More slipway surface will also be susceptible to weed growth requiring care while engaged in launching boats.

Bank Erosion

Very dry riverbanks are more susceptible to erosion from vessel wash. Please ensure you adhere to the speed limits and maintain a reduced wash.

Lock Share

Where appropriate by maximising on the number of vessels in a lock the total volume of water moving downstream is decreased. This also reduces the volume of water used. Please be patient and wait for other boaters to share the lock with you rather than using locks for sole passages.

Efficient Lock Use

Make sure lock cycles are used for vessels travelling each way. Each lock cycle should take boats both up and down stream. Shut all sluice gates and paddles when leaving a lock.

Service Blocks

You are requested not to leave taps running at watering points or service blocks in the interest of water conservation.

Published in Inland Waterways
Tagged under

The River Barrow, Graignamanagh, St. Mullins and a boat trip from New Ross to Hook Head features on the new series of Distant Shores, a sailing adventure TV series where an American couple Paul and Sheryl Shard undertake different voyages.

In season eight the filmakers start from north England and sail to Ireland. At New Ross they are befriended by local boaters and enjoy a day trip on the Barrow. Then they have some good “craic” at the boat club! The series was filmed last May and is on the new schedule from Travel Channel (Sky channel 251).

The new Season (8 episodes) of Distant Shores air on Wednesday, April 4 at 1930.  The first episode features New Ross and the River Barrow. It repeats on Thurs Apr 5 at 1330,

Published in Maritime TV
Tagged under

A search and recovery operation is underway upstream of the Carrick-on-Shannon town bridge for a distance of approximately 400m. The Garda Water Unit has divers in the water and both Garda and Civil Defence vessels are searching this area. Waterways Ireland has advised boats in the area to approach this area at slow speed and note any directions or instructions issued by the Garda or Civil Defence.

Published in Inland Waterways
Tagged under

#ANGLING - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has appointed Tourism Development International (TDI) to undertake a Socio-Economic Survey of Recreational Angling in Ireland.

The overall objective of the survey, which will run over the course of 2012, is to establish the current volume and value of domestic and overseas recreational angling in the country.

Pike, coarse fish, bass, salmon, sea trout, brown trout and sea anglers will all be invited to participate in what is described as Ireland's most comprehensive angling survey undertaken in decades.

The survey will inform IFI and its tourism partners in relation to the business of angling in Ireland and also enable improved strategic planning and decision-making in terms of product development and marketing.

"Anglers are the key to this survey," commented Minister of State for Natural Resources Fergus O'Dowd. "They know the resource and they understand the importance of sustainability. What anglers contribute to Ireland’s economy is unknown but I am certain that it is significant.

"Angling takes place in every river and lake in Ireland and all around our coastline. There is no town or village in Ireland that doesn’t have anglers."

He added: "It is imperative that the inland fisheries and sea angling resources are managed in the best way possible to ensure enjoyment for our local and visiting anglers, sustainable jobs in rural communities and maximising its potential to add to Ireland’s economy.

"Getting the right information from those most involved will greatly assist in improving the angling product."

The survey comprises two parts: a household survey and a survey of recreational anglers which will commence in April. Anglers will be met at fishing locations throughout Ireland and invited to participate there and then, or later by phone or online. IFI says that every effort will be made to accommodate participation.

Published in Angling

I was slightly surprised to find that numbers of registered boats increased on both the Shannon and the Erne last year. The Erne ended the year with 5401 boats, up from 5192 in 2010 and 4659 in 2007; the Shannon ended with 8387, up from 8143 in 2010 and 7001 in 2007. Even the Royal, Grand and Barrow numbers increased: 634 permits were issued in 2011, up from 577 in 2010 and 527 in 2007.

However, there are two problems with the interpretation of these numbers. The first is that, because there is no annual registration fee on the Erne and Shannon, there is no incentive for owners to de-register boats that have been sold away from the river. The second is that an increase in registrations might reflect increased vigilance by the inspectorate rather than an actual increase in boat numbers.

The traffic figures for the Shannon locks and moveable bridges do not provide a complete record of all boat movements: a boat that stays on Lough Derg, for instance, will never appear in the figures. But they are a good indicator of show changes in levels of usage from year to year.

The earliest figures I have to hand are for 1998, when there were 74642 boat movements, of which 79% were of hire boats. By 2008 the total number of boat movements was down to 58787, 62% hire boats. By 2010 the total was 50706, 52% hire boats, and in 2011 the total was 45156, 53% hire boats.

But from 2006 until 2010 the numbers of movements of private boats were remarkably consistent: 24634, 24554, 22628, 24705, 24395. There was then a significant fall to 21442 in 2011. However, the fall in the number of hire boat passages has been much more drastic, from 58586 in 1998 to 23714 in 2011, a fall of about 60%.

Perhaps it is because it feels that the numbers reflect poorly on its effectiveness that Waterways Ireland's new Marketing Strategy 2012-2017 contains so few measurable output targets and focuses largely on inputs. It shows what WI intends to do, not what it hopes to achieve. Whatever the reason, I think the decision is regrettable: WI should get SMART.

Mineral Oil Tax
I could never understand why the Irish taxpayer should subsidise the owners of pleasure-boats by allowing them to use cheap (green, rebated) diesel (marked gas oil). I was delighted therefore when the European Union authorities finally lost patience with the Irish and British Governments' successive requests for derogations and instructed them to end the subsidy.

The Irish Government responded by allowing boat-owners to use either auto diesel or marked gas oil; if they use the latter, they must make a return, once a year, of the difference between the tax they actually paid on their fuel and what they should have paid at the auto diesel rate.

I asked Revenue how much duty was paid for the first two years of the scheme, 2009 and 2010; the amounts were e169,895.51 and e140,929.12. The 2010 figure means that the full tax was enough to cover just over 300,000 litres of diesel: say 30 litres a year for each of 10,000 boats, which doesn't seem to be very much. The inland hire fleets could account for most of that, so I asked Revenue how many returns had been received. They told me that they got 38 returns in 2010 for the year 2009, but the number increased in the following year — to 41.

I see two possible explanations. Either the vast majority of boat-owners are using auto diesel, in which case they don't need the scheme that allows them to use marked gas oil, or the vast majority of boat-owners are simply ignoring the law. If that is so, the system has been shown to be unworkable and Revenue should insist on the use of auto diesel.

WI's non-houseboat policy
Waterways Ireland developed some houseboat berths at Shannon Harbour, with funding from the National Development Plan. The berths, above Griffith Bridge, are designed for Grand Canal-size boats: there are seven berths available, with fixed timber jetties, water and (with smartcard access) electricity.

The interesting point is that the berths are not advertised on WI's website as houseboat berths. Instead they are described as the first release of "vacancies that arise at Waterways Ireland’s directly managed mooring sites", under a heading "Extended Term Serviced Mooring Vacancies". They are available on one-year licences, where "it is expected that the licence holders will live on board their vessels as their sole or main residence." However, the Mooring Agreement does not require that licence holders live on their boats.

That seems to leave it open to Waterways Ireland to allocate the berths to non-residential boaters. And, as the licences are being auctioned with a minimum bid price of e1250 for the year, barge owners who are paying up to three times that amount in commercial marinas might be interested. More importantly, the licence agreement would be easily adapted to use elsewhere on the canals and on other waterways; that might allow WI to begin to bring the long-term berthers, residential or otherwise, under control.

Water charges
Éamon Ó Cuív TD keeps his eye on the ball. He asked a Dáil question about a Reasoned Opinion sent by the EU Commission to Ireland in November 2011, suggesting that Ireland had not correctly implemented the provisions of the Water Framework Directive that require "a cost recovery policy for water services that includes the environmental and resource costs of water use".

Ireland restricted cost recovery to drinking water and wastewater; the EU believes that it should also be applied to many other water uses, including hydroelectricity generation and the supply of water to navigations. If the Commission is right, Ireland may have to charge Waterways Ireland for the supply of water to the Grand and Royal Canals and to the Shannon-Erne Waterway. And as the Ulster Canal is to rely on water pumped from the Erne to Clones, presumably either Ireland or the UK will have to charge for it.

Denis Dillon
Denis Dillon has just taken up his new job as General Manager at Shannon Sailing's marina at Dromineer, and is looking forward to working with its "small but efficient" staff to develop the marina's services.

Denis started his working life as an ERA in the naval service, then spent twenty-four years in Shannon Airport's fire and rescue service, where one of his roles was as rescue coxswain. The airport, which is on the estuary, had a hovercraft and a jet-powered launch as well as its more conventional Zodiacs. He was a founder member of Killaloe-Ballina Search and Rescue and is now Deputy Area Officer of Killaloe Coast Guard.

Denis worked with the ISA as Motorboat Development Officer and as Southern Regional Development Officer. A powerboating enthusiast with his eye on a round-Ireland record, he helped set up the ISA RIB Challenge, sponsored by Yachtsman Euromarine, to promote the safe and responsible use of powerboats, including club rescue boats.

At Shannon Sailing, Denis intends to build on the strengths of the existing berthage, workshop and chandlery services and to increase activity in training (he has ten years' experience as a powerboat and motor cruiser instructor). That will cover barge, powerboat, sailing and motorboat courses, up to instructor level, as well as engine maintenance; there will also be multi-activity summer camps for children. Shannon Sailing will make more provision for RIBs, which can be kept ashore and launched when needed, and the workshop will include a RIB maintenance and repair service.

Denis sees Dromineer as the gateway to Lough Derg and Shannon Sailing as a one-stop boating shop that people enjoy coming to.

Royal and Ulster Canals
I asked Waterways Ireland to tell me the cost of the restoration of the Royal Canal, the annual cost of running it and the revenue it generates. I was told that capital expenditure on the restoration, since 1987, was e37 million, that the maintenance cost for 2012 was e2.46 million and that the revenue generated in 2011 (probably almost nil) was not available.

The surprising thing about this reply is the low cost of restoration. The Main Line of the Royal is 146 km long and has 46 locks and many bridges, some of them newly built as part of the restoration. Harbours have been improved, slipways have been provided and service blocks have been built. And all of this was done for e37 million (I don’t know whether that’s in constant prices and, if so, at which year’s rates: I’ve asked a supplementary question).

The proposed recreation of part of the Ulster Canal, from Lough Erne to Clones, would be 13 km long with one double lock. Some dredging would be needed on the River Finn and a new canal 0.6 km long would have to be provided; the work at the Finn end would cost e8.5 million altogether. On the line as a whole, work would be required on up to 17 bridges, some major and some minor or private bridges. And there would be a cost for land acquisition, although the Updated Economic Appraisal put that at a mere e1,268,280, a very small portion of the total cost. And then there would be the pumps and pipes to take water from the Erne, pump it to Clones and let it flow back down. The total cost of this lot would be e38m + VAT, which I am told is about e45 million.

Now, even allowing for the facts that there had been some voluntary and FÁS scheme work on the Royal, that no land had to be acquired and that parts of the canal were in water, I still find it difficult to see how a 13 km canal with one double lock can cost more than a 146 km canal with 46 locks. I am seeking enlightenment because I just don't understand this.

Published in Brian Goggin
Page 19 of 27

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