New weir may affect homeowners generating power

Waterways Ireland's compulsory purchase order for land at Clonsingle Weir is completed and the new works to secure the water supply will proceed - but the new weir's secure supply to the canal may affect people generating their own electricity near the weir.Waterways Ireland are taking over the control of the weir and published Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) for the land at the weir under the provisions of the Shannon Navigation Act 1990.There are a number of mills on the stretch of water that may be affected by the new weir. These mills generate electricity for their owners."The people who have electricity mills and are generating electricity for their own needs may now have less capacity and will have to buy electricity. This is quantifiable and a statement claim will be assessed and they will be paid a compensation," said Greg Duggan, senior engineer, with Westmeath County Council.A spokesperson for Waterways Ireland confirmed Mr. Duggan's belief saying "In line with standard procedure, if loss can be proven compensation will be paid."The current weir at Clonsingle has been in place since the OPW scheme in 1950 to regulate the lake's levels and relies on manual operation of the sluice and weir by the turning of a wheel. The new system will be fully operated and manage the lakes levels automatically and remotely, removing the need for a person to physically attend the site and turn the wheel.IFA spokesperson Paddy Donnelly was disappointed that a CPO was completed before the issue of compensation for the mill owners was addressed."It is a valuable thing that the mill owners are losing if the weir affects their ability to generate electricity as they are doing now. A CPO is so final, it leaves little room to negotiate a true value for these people and the benefit they received from the water, " he said.IFA reassuredThe Irish Farmers Association (IFA) are happy with a Council assurance that farms on Ennell's shoreline will not be flooded by proposed measures to regulate the Lough's water levels."Both Westmeath County Council and Waterways Ireland met with an IFA delegation on Monday last to reassure that farmers would not be losing land to flooding. There was a great fear and worry among local farmers that they would lose a portion of land if the level of the Lough was to rise,"We would be talking about as many as forty farmers who risked losing land if Ennell's water level was to be permanently increased," explained Mr. Donnelly.The IFA were also representing a group of turf cutters who feared that flooding would put an end to their activity.Mr. Duggan explained that the works being carried out on Lough Ennell, including an electronic weir at Clonsingle, would not increase the water level at the expense of farmers' land."Indeed, what farmers are likely to see is not a rise but in fact a drop from the maximum levels that they currently experience. The work being carried out on the weir will see a smaller variation between the current highest and lowest levels in the Lough. The fear expressed by the IFA is that the scheme was going to raise levels of the Lough beyond its current maximum," said Mr. Duggan.The County Council's new engineering scheme will manage water levels on Lough Ennell to the benefit of all users including farmers, turf cutters, fisheries and recreational users but primarily it is to ensure an adequate supply to the Royal Canal."This new scheme will give us a more certainty about supply and a smaller variation between existing levels," he said.County Council estimates suggest on scheme completion that the average maximum level in Lough Ennell will be 67mm (two and a half inches) lower than the average maximum recorded in the period 1990 to 2003, and the calculated absolute maximum water levels after the proposed works are completed will be 307mm (12 inches) lower than the recorded absolute maximum over the same period.