Sinn Féin Westminster candidate for Foyle, Gearóid O hEára has called on the DOE to withhold permission for any hydro-electric schemes on the river Faughan until comprehensive environmental impact studies into the cumulative effects of five proposed schemes along the river are carried out.
Mr O hEara, himself a keen fisherman and a lifelong member of the Faughan Anglers Association, said:
“It would seem that the DOE is intent on contradicting their own mission statement, “A Better Environment – a Better Economy” by allowing anti-environmental developments along the river Faughan.”
He went on to say:
“The Faughan is designated a Special area of Conservation (SAC) by Europe in respect of the Atlantic salmon and the European otter. Responsibility for its protection lies with the NI Environmental Agency’s Water Management Unit.
“Europe expects the precautionary principle to be applied, in other words if there is a doubt that a proposed project will affect the SAC, then permissions should not be granted.
“The River Faughan Anglers Association (RFAA) a voluntary, cross community and not-for-profit organisation manages the fishing rights of this important salmon river.
“With over 900 permit holders, the vast majority from the Derry and Claudy areas and a significant waiting list is an indication of the importance of angling in the area, both in terms of a valuable recreational activity for local people but also indicates the tourism potential for the local economy.
“There are five current applications with planners for for the Faughan catchment area, each of which require the abstraction of water, the dewatering of some stretches, along with substantial engineering works and impoundments, which by their very nature will negatively impact on the river.
“Each will require a licence from NIEA to abstract water. The application for Ballyarton requires a double abstraction licence for a fish farm, which has operated without one, and for the proposed hydro project.
Mr O hEára concluded:
“I am calling on NIEA to withhold consideration of these applications until such time as the applicants can demonstrate that the projects will not damage or negatively impact on the SAC
“The cumulative effect of five applications for hydros on the Faughan is not being taken into consideration and the department appears unwilling or unable to do so.
“The “competent authority” in this matter – the Loughs Agency – has previously raised concerns on these proposals.
“The Minister and Department of Environment is obliged to gauge the cumulative impact and if there is any doubt regarding the environmental impact on the SAC then approval should be denied.” CRÍOCH/END