Lough sewerage row is taken to Brussels
TWO campaigners against a proposal to extend a sewerage pipeline hundreds of metres into Lough Foyle will deliver a formal complaint to the European Commission in Brussels tomorrow.
Enda Craig of the Campaign for a Clean Estuary (CFCE) says the group has enlisted the support of MEPs from both sides of the disputed Lough Foyle border in opposition to the proposed sewage treatment plant at Carnagarve, Moville.
Fine Gael MEP Marian Harkin has facilitated the trip to the Berlaymont but Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has also come out in support of the campaign.
Mr Craig stated: “Our two representatives will now be accompanied by a northern MEP and a southern MEP to reflect the fact that this is a cross border situation.
“They will attend the meeting with the legal unit of the EU Commission at the Parliament building on Thursday, September 20. Lough Foyle divides the two jurisdictions and we believe this dual representation is a first.”
Almost three years ago the Sentinel revealed how the Republic of Ireland’s (ROI) territorial ambitions in Lough Foyle were partly blamed for blocking the Project Kelvin submarine cable’s progress up the waterway
Dublin’s claim was not tested then but it now looks like it could be given Irish Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s recent declaration that the Lough Foyle foreshore belongs to the Republic of Ireland under its State Property Act (1954).
The Minister made the contentious statement in reference to the successful application by Donegal County Council for development consent to build the Carnagarve sewerage pipeline hundreds of metres out into the Lough.
The pipeline will extend from a new sewerage treatment plant at Carnagarve and will cross a popular shore walk just north of Moville.
But the CFCE claim the Irish Government has not properly transposed an EU Environmental Impact Assessment directive into Irish Law.
The group also says the Government has not rectified the situation in the interim with the impending possibility of massive fines.
“The Carnagarve proposal has been assessed under this defective legislation and as such will be reflected in our formal complaint,” claims Mr Craig.
He referred to the EU Commission’s reference of the Republic of Ireland back to Court over incomplete environmental impact assessment laws in June.
At the start of the summer the European Commission urged Ireland to bring its national legislation on assessing the effects of projects on the environment into line with EU rules.
There move was general and did not relate to any specific proposals but the EU stated: “Despite considerable interaction with the Commission, legislation on environmental impact assessments in Ireland still contains shortcomings.
“On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore referring Ireland back to the European Court of Justice and requesting that it impose a lump sum fine of over 1,800 euro and a daily penalty payment of over 19 000 euro for each day after the second Court ruling until the infringement ends.
“A fundamental objective of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (EIA Directive) is to ensure that projects likely, by virtue of their nature, size or location, to have significant effects on the environment are subject to an impact assessment.
“Despite an earlier referral to the Court and a subsequent Court ruling in March 2011 Ireland has not yet ensured the full transposition of the EIA Directive into national law.
“Concerns remain regarding the complete transposition of Article 3 of the Directive, avoiding any negative consequences of split decision making between Irish planning authorities and the Irish Environment Protection Agency, and the exclusion of demolition works.
“Ireland generally accepts the Court’s findings and stated its intention to adopt all the necessary legislation to implement the Court’s judgment by the end of May 2012.
“However the necessary legislation has not yet been adopted, so the Commission is referring the case back to the Court.”
Underlying the row over the sewerage proposal and the opposition of local residents to the potential environmental impact of such a scheme is an international row over ownership of Lough Foyle, which is disputed between ROI and Britain.
Earlier this year ROI Environment Minister Phil Hogan was asked by Donegal Sinn Féin TD Pádraig MacLochlainn for his Department’s stance on the proposed 350 metre pipeline “in view of the fact that the UK Crown Estate claims propriety ownership of the sea floor of Lough Foyle to the high water mark on the Donegal side of the lough.”
The Minister replied that a successful application for a compulsory purchase order was confirmed by the Irish planning board, An Bord Pleanála, in August 2011.
He went on to claim that the grant of the order was justified under current Irish law and that Lough Foyle’s foreshore was Irish property.
“Following confirmation by the Board the transfer of ownership of the foreshore concerned becomes a matter to be transacted between Donegal County Council as the purchaser and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, in whom ownership of the foreshore is vested under the State Property Act 1954,” he stated.
However, this interpretation is disputed by the British Government and the Crown Estate.
Three years ago - after a telecoms chief told a Stormont committee a multi-million pound transatlantic cable could not be brought up Lough Foyle because it was “a disputed border region” - a spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) told the Sentinel that the whole of Lough Foyle was within the UK.
In February the Sentinel asked the Crown Estate - which owns Lough Foyle - for its views on the latest claim on its property.
A spokesperson said: “The exact location of the international boundary between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland through Loughs Carlingford and Foyle remains an issue for determination between the UK and Republic of Ireland governments.
“In this context, The Crown Estate continues to work with the Northern Ireland Executive, The Loughs Agency and local stakeholders for the benefit of all users of the two border Loughs and the protection of their respective environments.”
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Weather for Londonderry
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 12 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west