Save the Salmon Stop the Hydro Madness!
PETITION Please help us save our salmon! We urge the Northern Ireland Minister for the Environment to suspend all hydro electric schemes immediately and order an independent scientific review of their impact on the aquatic ecosystems. We are aware for the need for renewable energy but it should not be at the cost of destroying the already declining and fragile populations of salmon, freshwater eels and sea lampreys. These and all other fish species are put massively at risk by recently installed and proposed hydro electric schemes. The Omagh Anglers Association objected to a proposed hydro-electricity plant proposed by Omagh District Council on the Camowen River. Their objections were over-ruled, the scheme went ahead, and now it is having a devastating effect on fish life. The scheme is licensed by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA). It involves an ‘Archimedes screw’ with a long lade – the diversion flow of the river through the turbine - involving huge water pressure. There are no screens in place to keep salmon or other migratory species from the turbine and no shut off for the run of smolts (juvenile salmon) downstream to the sea. The precautionary approach has been ignored and the operations of this scheme and others of similar design are likely to wipe out the majority of the salmon population and lead to the closing of the river for salmon angling. Many other rivers have applications for numerous of these murder machines. Omagh anglers have seen the effects of one and other rivers have experienced similar problems with this design. Fishery scientists in Ireland have expressed concern regarding the diminishing salmon populations during the last decade. Anglers have played their part by reducing numbers of fish taken for the table and in many cases practiced voluntary catch & release and adhered to compulsory release on rivers where it was enforced for conservation. Many rivers in the Republic of Ireland have been closed to salmon angling in an attempt to raise salmon populations. Omagh District Council went ahead with this scheme despite concerns and protests from local environmentalists and anglers. They claimed that it would be an environmentally-friendly scheme which would enable them to sell electricity to the Grid and reduce the Council’s carbon footprint. It was claimed that this scheme would be fish friendly. No salmon were harmed in the testing of this machine – but only because none were involved in testing, only coarse fish and trout! Costs have soared in this instance. The tender was for £477,000 but to date the Council have spent £1.2million and the Scheme is not yet fully operational. Who is paying the rest? The ratepayers and taxpayers are paying for it, of course! Omagh District Council talks about biodiversity on its website and claims to be reducing its carbon footprint. But what about the environmental cost of this scheme? Salmon numbers are in crisis in Northern Ireland but the NIEA is promoting and issuing licences for these turbines. There is no demonstrable advantage in terms of renewable energy and reduced carbon footprint as the energy used and greenhouse gases produced during their construction, combined with costs of construction and maintaining, and the damaging impact on the river, all exceed any benefits from power generation. Ireland needs conserve every resource that helps to enhance our tourism industry. Salmon angling generates a huge amount of revenue including the income from large numbers of overseas anglers, and contribute towards many people’s livelihoods. The four year life cycle of the salmon is being permanently fractured through devastation of smolts (juvenile) and kelts (spawned salmon) being slashed as they make their way downstream to the sea. The few remaining salmon that try to return to their spawning grounds face the same fate on their way upstream. It is true that there was waterpower for centuries on Irish rivers, but they never involved Archimedes screw type hydros which are so costly to build and create such limited power that they have to run 24/7 to try to recover the cost of their construction. Archimedes screws suck in most of the river’s flow and reduce the amount of water through any salmon passes. As salmon normally follow the main flow this inevitably puts them through the hydro. If the water levels are not suitable for the fish to get through the hydro acts as a temporary barrier. These problems are especially compounded by the high range of water heights in rain-fed rivers which are typical in Northern Ireland. With several hydros destined for the same rivers these will act as a series of barriers concentrating fish shoals leaving them open to predation and poaching. This scheme on the River Camowen, which has about 25% of the spawning stock of the whole Foyle system, was tested on the 16th March 2012 without prior warning been given to the local fishery management organisation, the Loughs Agency. The water level between the input and output points dropped by two feet. It left juvenile fish stranded in small pools and at the mercy of herons, crows and other predators. We urge the Minister of the Environment to suspend all hydroelectric schemes and prevent further applications from proceeding until schemes have been objectively verified as environmentally safe for migratory salmonids. By the time the effects of numerous hydro projects on the salmon population are seen it may be too late. Unless this type of scheme is stopped, the future is bleak for salmon and other migratory aquatic species in Northern Ireland.