Yesterday saw the launch of an exciting initiative for the River Allow and its catchment. The initiative is a joint venture and partnership between the IRD DUhallowLIFE+ project and the South Western Regional Authority INTERREGIV funded TRAP project. The aim is simple; to set up a catchment management group for the Allow.The River Allow catchment is a sub-basin of the Blackwater River catchment and identified as a single waterbody management unit under the Water Framework Directive. A catchment is essentially the area of drainage basin of a river and it is well established that activities within a catchment determine the water quality and other aspects of rivers and other water bodies including our drinking water quality and quantity.
The purpose of the River Allow Catchment Management Group will be to provide a collaborative and coordinated approach towards providing practical improvements of the River Allow Catchment.
The Catchment Management Approach
Our society depends on high standards of water quality. In recent years it has been recognised that catchment management should not only be the responsibility of the public sector, but also that private and voluntary/community sector should be involved in the decision making process. Alongside this movement towards shared responsibility, there is now a growing body of evidence that far greater environmental and economic improvements can be achieved if all of the groups actively involved in regulation, land management, scientific research or wildlife conservation in a catchment area are drawn together, together with landowners and other interest groups to form a catchment management group.
Challenges: The challenge is to resolve the conflicts between the environmental imperatives and the continued security / well-being of the residents of the area and other stakeholders.
TRAP and International Experience: One of the key aims of the TRAP (Territories of River Action Plans) project is to examine good water management practices in other European countries and ascertain if they are applicable, in part or in total, to the Irish context.
Why IRD DuhallowLIFE+: The IRD DuhallowLIFE+ project provides the ideal partner as it already has carried out considerable work on the ground with the local community to improve the river, its riparian zone, its wildlife including species of importance for which this site is designated as a Natura 2000 site and in many cases also improving farm management infrastructure or the farm itself. The process will compliment the objectives of IRD Duhallow and the LIFE+ project.
Benefits: A catchment management group comprised of diverse stakeholders and technical specialists from in and around a catchment, can be responsible for coordinating the planning, funding and delivery of good ecological health for that river and its catchment.
The aim: To establish a Catchment Management Group for the River Allow Catchment. This will be comprised of diverse stakeholders from the public, private and voluntary sectors as well as landowners and technical specialists.
Inaugural meeting April 30th 2014: We had an excellent turnout at yesterdays meeting exceeding all of our expectations by filling the 52 seater bus provided for the event. The day started with a field trip to three sites where LIFE work has been carried out, to view the results of on-the-ground actions ranging from the provision of silt traps, alternative cattle drinking arrangements to current direct livestock access to the river, invasive species removal, bank restoration work and fencing. Examples of the pressures on the Special Area of Conservation and Freshwater Pearl Mussel inparticular were viewed.
The afternoon session commenced with a short presentation by Fran on the LIFE project and aspirations for the River Allow process into the longer term, including the need to have a plan to deliver on the future management of the river including the the maintaince of the project actions (the latter is known as the afterLIFE plan). Fran's presentation was then.followed by a presentation by Bryan Riney of TRAP on the Catchment Management concepts and where the process could benefit all stakeholders through mutual decision making.
Present at the meeting were representatives from the Irish Farmers Association, the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Association, Macra, individual local landowners, Coillte, the Irish Wildlife Trust, Mary Immaculate (UL), Inland Fisheries Ireland, Teagasc, Cork Co Council (planning, roads and environment sections), South Western Regional Authority, IRD Duhallow, Rural Social Scheme, Kanturk Trout Angling Club, Duhallow Bird Watch Group, Duhallow Environmental Working Group, Kanturk Chamber of Commerce, Office of Public Works, Environmental Protection Agency.
NPWS were unable to attend and sent their apologies, and we hope that they will be in a position to attend into the future.
The process provides not only an excellent opportunity to achieve the objectives of the Water Framework Directive but also provides the framework for a more extensive and proactive afterLIFE programme (i.e., management and maintenance of the area once the LIFE project has officially finished.)
The feedback from the audience was generally very positive and the concerns expressed from some representatives of the farming community were addressed and taken on board. It was explained that the process is a voluntary non-statutory process with the objective of bringing overall benefits to the community, including the farming community, as well as moving towards better water and wildlife management.
It is intended to hold a specific meeting for landowners on Wednesday May 14th 2014 to discuss the process further and also to give an update on the LIFE project and plan for the coming Summer months.
Please contact the LIFE team at IRD Duhallow (029-60633) if you are a landowner along the River Allow, and have not recieved your letter of invite to the meeting.
We would like to thank everybody for their support during the day, in particular the three landowners (Tony Ahern, John Murphy and Sean McLoughlin) who facilitated the field trip.