Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Fighting the pipe - farmers opposed to Shannon to Dublin water project

Irish Water will face stiff resistance from farmers opposed to its plan to pump water from the Shannon to Dublin

Image: Irish Water
Image: Irish Water

Graham Clifford

If it was just about the money then perhaps farmers such as Liam Minehan could live with that - but they say it's about so much more. Proposals by Irish Water to build a 170km pipeline from Shannon to Dublin would see the pipe routed through his land and he fears for the long-term impact.

"I've four sons and three of them work in farming. After I'm gone they might want to farm this land - perhaps build a home here. But if this pipe is laid it could make that impossible forever," says Liam from his 50-hectare property outside Nenagh.

The dairy farmer adds: "Any compensation would only cover loss of earnings but what about the value of the land and the negative impact permanent structures could have on getting planning permission to build a home?"

There are approximately 500 landowners along the route which will see it pass through Tipperary, Offaly and Kildare before ending in Peamount, west Dublin.

Tipperary farmer Liam Minehan says the proposed Shannon pipeline will permanently disrupt and damage his holding. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22
Tipperary farmer Liam Minehan says the proposed Shannon pipeline will permanently disrupt and damage his holding. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22

Both construction and operational costs are expected to top €1.2bn. Roughly 85pc of the route runs through agricultural land.

There will be three kinds of valves on the proposed pipeline; air valves, line valves and scour or washout valves. Air valves would be placed every 500m to 600m, line valves will be buried 4km to 6km apart, and the washout valves allow sections of the pipeline to be emptied.

Irish Water says the pipeline is entirely necessary as the capital's population will rise from 1.5 million, as it is now, to around 2.1 million by 2050.

But not all landowners are convinced.

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"This will be nothing but a white elephant," predicts Liam Minehan, who is leading the 'Fight the Pipe' campaign.

"The predictions that Dublin will require around 215 million litres of water a day by 2050 are wrong. They're based on a report which I feel used inappropriate methodology and flawed assumptions.

"In fact, it will almost certainly have a surplus of 100 million litres a day without having to increase existing raw water supplies at all."

But project manager Gerry Geoghegan from Irish Water says it's "not sustainable" that a "city of nearly two million people should be hanging off one single river".

While many farmers along the route feel the project is inevitable, others are clearly concerned. "They're talking about a 50-metre working width, that's about the width of O'Connell Street," explains Thomas Cooney, chairman of the IFA's Environment and Rural Affairs Committee.

He continues: "The farmers impacted by the gas pipe installation didn't have such problems, but this appears to be much more disruptive. Once built, the 50-metre working way will become a 20-metre wayleave and during installation the land will be out of use for up to 18 months. And what will happen to the single farm payment on that strip of land? The stacking option won't be there for farmers."

Cooney has asked Irish Water to supply more information immediately.

"It's not possible to estimate levels of compensation without getting answers to questions regarding disruption - like what will happen to the subsoil, permanent structures, access to farmer's land, future planning permission and restrictions to working practices for farmers?"

Typical Pipeline Construction
Typical Pipeline Construction

Irish Water says it plans to use a similar template to its sister-company, Gas Networks Ireland, in terms of calculating compensation for landowners.

Some farmers expect the linear metre payment rate to be around €70.

Irish Water will hold consultation meetings with local communities in the coming weeks and a spokesperson for the company said: "[We will also be]... communicating with landowners through four dedicated landowner Liaison Officers (LLOs).

"The LLOs (will) provide landowners with a dedicated point of contact throughout the planning and wayleave acquisition phase, through construction and afterwards."

When asked for more details regarding the level of compensation, the Farming Independent was told: "All aspects of the budget are commercially sensitive. Landowners will be compensated for the permanent wayleave and also for any crop losses and/or disturbance incurred during construction."

For the likes of Liam Minehan though, compensation is not the issue.

It may require a compulsory purchase order to run the pipes through his land and those of others it seems.

"This is pie in the sky stuff. Put simply, the project isn't needed and farming communities, and groups such as the River Shannon Protection Alliance, will fight this every step of the way," he said.

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