Windfarm Impacts on Flooding in South Galway

In April this year,  I sent off a Letter of Complaint to the ESB who own the Derrybrien Windfarm over possible impacts of the windfarm on flooding.

windfarm

This document gives the background of the South Galway flooding situation and queries the impact that the windfarm has had on the mountain hydrology.  During construction of this windfarm

  • 200 Hectares of forest was clear-felled
  • Over 17km of roads were contsrtructed
  • 71 turbine bases were constructed

In 2003, the construction of the windfarm during wet weather caused a landslide in Derrybrien and in scrambling for options a plan was put in place to keep water off the mountain  – it was called a Robust Drainage Scheme and as over 30 km of drains were dug

Over 30 km of drains were dug within the Windfarm as part of a robust-drainage scheme to stop the landslide from happening

drains.JPG
One of the drains running from the base of turbine is over 7 feet deep.

EU Court Ruling

In 2010, The European Commission issued a final warning over breaches of environmental law.

“.. the case refers to a Court ruling in July 2008 concerning Ireland’s failure to ensure that
work on projects that might require an environmental impact assessment (EIA) does not start before the necessary checks or studies are carried out. The Court found that

  • … Ireland’s use of a system of retention permission to retrospectively approve such work was contrary to the EIA Directive.
  • …  there had been a failure to undertake a proper prior impact assessment of a wind farm at Derrybrien, County Galway, which caused a major peat slide. No legislation has been adopted to address the issue of retrospective permission identified in the judgment.

In the Derrybrien case, the Irish authorities agreed to undertake an EIA to look in detail at further potential issues, however, to date none has been made due to delays in proposed new legislation.”

When we met with the European Commission Environment in March 2017,  they were aware of the open court ruling and were very concerned about the damage being done to human health and the SACs by the flooding.  They recommended that we write to and meet with the windfarm owners and highlight our concerns.  They EC-Environment – Enforcement officer mentioned that in order to comply with the European Court ruling the EU state will probably have do a retrorespective EIA required with propsed mitigations.  Once we highlight other potential impacts these will have to be taken into account in the retrospective analysis.

Meeting with ESB International

Several weeks after issueing the letter of complaint – The SGFRC met with Mr Tom Gill of ESB International for an informal meeting to discuss the complaint. Mr Gill is the key person responsible for Derrybrien Windfarm.  It was a cordial meeting and we highlighed our concerns and asked what ESB could do here?   Mr Gill stated that if the ESB has caused an impact it would not be found wanting for a solution and that ESB wants to be the ‘good neighbour’.

We highlighted that current best practice includes doing hydrology modelling and attenuation. http://www.coillte.ie/media/2017/03/Doughill_Environmental_Report_2017_to_2021.pdf

While this may not be suitable for Slieve Aughty, the science here tells us there is a clear impact from windfarms and that the commnuities in South Galway are potentially still being affected. We indicated that there is now a plan to develop a flood relief solution in South Galway and that ESB should have a part to play in this.

We asked Mr Gill to go back to the experts with his organiszation and ask one question –

Has the windfram development (turbines, drains, roads, Deforestation)  had an effect on the hyrdology of the mountain?

If the answer is an honest ‘Yes’ then can he check with his management to see what can be done about it.

Windfarms as a ‘pressure’ on our waterways

As many of you may know (and contributed)  there was a public consultation on River basin catchment management and one of my recommendations was that we highlight Windfarms as a pressure our our waterways. This is something that can potentailly change the hydrology of an catchment.   Hopefully, through that public consultation we have made or organizations aware that this a real pressure.  If it is recosnised as such, then our Government need to identfy mitigations (program of measures) that can reduce the impacts so that any windfarm development is required to follow these.

Meeting with Minister Naughten Minister for Communications, Climate Action & Environment

We will be meeting with Minister Naughten within the week and we want to see his position on this matter.

The Minister is in potentially compromising position here. When the EC Environment penalizes the Irish Government for the Derrybrien Windfarm/Landslide fiasco (we suspect in the near/medium term) , it will land into the lap of our environment Minister.   And when our Environment Minister seeks out the offending parties, it will be none other then his own department.

Minister Naughton has already been a positive force in flooding relief for South Galway. He was proactive in his assignment of GSI experts to start an indepth hydrology analysis of South Galway (and other areas). He also attended a public meeting in Gort last year, organised by Deputy Anne Rabbitte.

We look forward to some progressive discussions with Minister Naughten in the coming days.

 

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