Thursday 13 December 2018

Historic harbour is under threat due to silting

Those using Annagassan Harbour now risk being left high and dry. Hubert Murphy reports

Annagassan Harbour is going to close in the 'foreseeable future' and local councillor Pearse McGeough says that is a disgrace. He has long campaigned for something to be done with the ancient harbour, which has silted up.

He says fishermen will just not be able to operate from Annagassan anymore.

Efforts to sort out the problem have been hindered by the fact that the harbour is close to two Natura 2000 sites (Dundalk Bat SAC and Dundalk Bay SPA).

Because of that, the council have been in contact with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the EPA and if works are to take place, it will require an Environmental Impact Statement, at a cost of €135.000. The council say they just don't have the funds for it.

Council Engineer Pat Finn told an Ardee area meeting that the harbour has been dredged in the past but at the moment, they were at a 'full stop' due to costs.

Cllr McGeough said there had been a proposal to flush the scour pipe if it could be repaired.

Cllr Liam Reilly said coastal erosion may be playing a part and could funding be extended for the harbour works.

The issues with Annagassan harbour date back decades, a report from 1930 on the future of the facility stating that silting was a problem.

The national Ports and Harbour tribunal visited the quay and held a Sitting in Annagassan on January 25th, 1927. One of the present day problems of silting in the quay was also referred to and diversion of the river Glyde into the harbour, to act as a scouring agent-a suggestion that invokes a good deal of controversy even today-was suggestetd by the Tribunal.

Members of the Harbour Commissioners. Mr. S. J. Harmon, secretary: Matthew Clinton, chairman, and Mr. C. D. King, gave evidence to the tribunal.

The quay, then 100 ft. in length was constructed in 1914 at a cost of £6.668.

Part of the money, £1,325 was put up by the Dept. of Agriculture and Fisheries because of the local fishing industry, but the Tribunal found that fishing had diminished over the years, and the harbour was used mainly for the import of coal and the export of timber.

Statistics were listed for the five years from 1923 to 1928 and revealed the busiest year was 1925 with 37 vessels, with a total tonnage of 5.324, visited the harbour. But with the closure of the brewery in Castlebellingham, which used half the coal trade through the harbour, it started to decline.

The tribunal concluded that the harbour was of very limited importance either from a commercial or fishery point of view. It had value to one merchant, and to farmers in the immediate area who carted their own coal, and the Tribunal added that if it was felt that in the interests of the locality that the harbour should he maintained that the co. council should be empowered to take over and work it as a Council responsibility.

WHAT was described as the death knell for the harbour came in 1979 when the Annagassan Harbour Board was dissolved and its powers handed over to Louth County Council.

The board met once during the term of the previous council following pressure from locals, but had not convened for more than 20 years before that.

Colr Nicholas McCabe told members of the Minister's intention and county secretary Brendan Hoey explained that the problem with the board was that it had no administrative staff and no funds.

He pointed out that the county council must be vested with the board's powers if it was to spend money on it, but councillors kept an open mind on the possibility of establishing a sub committee within the council to look after the affairs of the harbour.

Independent Louth CC member Colr Hugh Conlon claimed the rights of the people of Annagassan were being undermined. If the board had not met for some years it was the fault of the members, Colr Conlon said, adding that there were plenty of people in Annagassan who would like to sit on such an authority.

Drogheda Independent