The River Loobagh is a tributary of the River Maigue…
River Funshion catchment community – “waiting 35 years for this day”
My name is David Lee, and I’m a member of Kildorrery Trout Anglers Association. In November 2014, I attended a special meeting of the four angling clubs on the River Funshion, namely Mitchelstown, Kildorrery, Glanworth and Kilworth, which was called to discuss the water quality and pollution on the river. A lot of discussion took place as the anglers were concerned over the poor conditions and lack of sizeable trout. It was agreed that an independent survey of the entire catchment was required. I was to take charge and report back at the next meeting. I am also a member of the Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) which helps to keep me updated on water matters, and the Cork Environmental Forum.
In January 2015, I met with Mr Paul Bryan of Southern Scientific Services. It was agreed that samples would be taken from 13 sites in the catchment, including EPA reference sites where biological river surveys are carried out. At a meeting called in April, much discussion was had as to how to fund the €7000 study. Raising the funds took some time as some of the clubs had to borrow the money due to the fact that they also had to pay affiliation and insurance. The four angling clubs also agreed to levy their members. After a programme was agreed, the fieldwork was carried by Stephen O’Shea of Southern Scientific on four dates between 2nd and the 11th of September. Biological monitoring was undertaken by a kick sampling technique for macroinvertebrates. This was carried out over four days and we had five anglers present each day as there was a lot of equipment to be transported to the sites. While this was very interesting, we did not see any of the ‘top’ insects (i.e. stone fly, mayfly). We did see some caddis fly on one of the days. The final report was published and, as agreed in the contract, 10 copies were supplied. These copies were given to each of the above clubs, and copies were also sent to the EPA Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), the Local Authority and SWAN.
Getting to know your Community Water Officer
The next big breakthrough was the appointment by the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office (LAWCO) of 12 Community Water Officers throughout Ireland. We were lucky to get Mr Kieran Murphy to cover County Cork. His primary role is to provide on the ground support to communities in the delivery of Water Framework Directive objectives (i.e. good ecological status).So projects such as pollution mitigation and control, habitat improvement, biodiversity conservation, invasive species control and public awareness will be developed and supported by him where possible with local communities.
Since his appointment I have introduced him to community councils, business people, County Councillors, farming groups, council engineer personnel and members of the public. These introductions laid the groundwork for the first River Funshion Catchment meeting. The idea of these meetings is to create an awareness of our water quality and explain how an Integrated Catchment Management plan could operate in the Funshion, with local people and stakeholders all having an equal say in a bottom-up approach, as suggested by the EPA.
Bringing the community together to talk about their water
On November 30th, 66 people attended a public meeting in Mitchelstown. It was the most rewarding day of my life. We had a great spread of personnel from farmers, business people, representatives from five community councils, representatives from the four angling clubs and also from the Fermoy Trout Anglers who helped with the funding for the survey, the local gun clubs, Ballyhoura Development, Avondhu Blackwater Partnership, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Cork Nature Network, Cork Environmental Forum, County Council Engineers, County Councillors, Cork & Limerick County Councils were represented. Mr Donal Daly of the EPA was also in attendance and most obligingly spoke about the Catchments Unit of the EPA and the current state of the water bodies across the country
The Water Framework Directive, heritage, and the new Waters and Communities Office
As chair, I welcomed everybody and gave an outline the Water Framework Directive and its purpose. The first of three speakers was Christy Roche, a Genealogy Researcher. He gave a talk on the historical sites along the entire river which is over 40 km in length. Amazingly, the Funshion River has 19 bridges, 16 castles and 300 Heritage sites. It also has 14 large county homes, and Manning Fort where a famous battle took place in the year 1643. This was enjoyed by all.
Fran Igoe gave an excellent talk on the set up of the Waters and Communities Office and its purpose. He also stated that the Water Framework Directive (WFD) was initiated to create a protective framework for natural water bodies. Three stems of the Directive are the protection, enhancement and, where required, the restoration of aquatic ecosystems and dependent terrestrial ecosystems, to promote the sustainable use of water as a resource, to protect water quality, and to mitigate the effects of drought and flooding. The framework takes account of legislation dealing with water quality and related areas such as the Nitrates Directive, as well as the Birds and Habitats Directives.
The Water Framework Directive requires member states to achieve at least good ecological status as defined by the directive by 2015 – which was missed by 2 years.
River Basin Management Plans are the mechanism by which the Directive aims to outline and coordinate the protection and restoration of water bodies grouped into the river catchments wherein they lie. This is a departure from the usual approach to distinguishing boundaries in Ireland therefore maximising the benefits to the local communities, who can be motivated to take ownership in water management. Finally, Fran expressed the need for people to have clean water and he made special reference to companies producing food to have top quality water to maintain their green image and high quality status.
Introducing Kieran Murphy, Community Water Officer
Kieran Murphy was the next speaker. He formally introduced himself as the new Community Water Officer for Cork. He outlined what his role would entail and how communities will be supported in taking ownership of their own rivers, lakes, ground and coastal waters. He went on to give examples of how communities can come together and celebrate their natural water bodies and how funding might be available to achieve WFD objectives. Kieran maintained that not only can successful projects lead to improved water conditions but they can and will increase the pride in a community.
We then had a round table discussion with contributions from attendees such as Bernie Connolly, Cork Environmental Forum, who praised the idea of community development and motivation to get local people having a say in their area, be it Tidy towns or control of aquatic invasive species. She also said the contribution from Christy Roche on the rich heritage along the river shows that people have many different attachments with the catchment and it is important to harness the wealth of these, be they recreational, historical or environmental. At the heart is the river itself, which binds the communities and these interests together.
Mr Jerry Keating proposed a vote of thanks to the speakers and wished the chairman every success in his endeavours to protect the river Funshion Catchment. Jerry was Fisheries’ Chief Environmental Officer for many years and has worked with Dr Maura Mulcahy UCC, Dr Gerard Morgan UCC, and with Dr Joe Caffery on lagarosiphon, an invasive species which affected the environmental habitat of Lough Corrib. He has offered to give all the help he can. Having fought for the improvement of rivers throughout the country, 82-year-old Mr Keating was delighted to state: “I have waited 35 years to see this day!”