Dáil Éireann - Volume 347 - 09 February, 1984

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Galway Drainage Scheme.

2. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Finance if he will give the following in regard to the design of the Dunkellin/Lavally drainage scheme: (i) details of the contract commissioned to investigate the likely effects of the drainage proposals on groundwater in the area of the scheme and on the oysterbeds at Clarinbridge; (ii) the cost incurred on this scheme in 1983; (iii) the estimated expenditure in 1984; and (iv) when a decision will be made to proceed with the drainage of the Dunkellin/Lavally catchment area.

Mr. J. Bermingham: The commissions placed by the Commissioners of Public Works to investigate the likely effects of the Dunkellin drainage proposals on groundwater in the area of the scheme and on the oysterbeds at Clarinbridge involve, respectively, the undertaking by a consulting hydrogeologist and support staff of a detailed examination in relation to the balance between overland and underground water flows which might be affected by the proposed drainage works and an investigation by a consulting oceanographer also with support staff, of the likely effects of post drainage flows on the oysterbeds at Clarinbridge; this latter investigation necessitates a hydrographic survey of Kilcolgan Bay and a monitoring process over a two-year period. A sum of £157,000 was expended on the Dunkellin scheme in 1983 and the [2285] estimated expenditure in 1984 including the cost of related works for example, sinking boreholes, providing hydrometric services, is estimated at £150,000. I am not in a position at this stage to say when a decision might be made to commence the Dunkellin Drainage Scheme.

Mr. Molloy: Are they the only surveys that are being prepared? Can the Minister of State indicate if any survey has been carried out with regard to the effects of the drainage on the Turlough, which would be affected by the proposed arrangement? What works have been done in that area with regard to the affect on wild life?

Mr. J. Bermingham: Survey has been carried out by the wildlife section of the Department of Forestry on the Turlough area and on the effect the drainage scheme will have on this.

Mr. Molloy: There is no provision in the 1984 Estimates covering the investigation into the effects on wildlife.

Mr. J. Bermingham: Details of this investigation are a matter for the Department of Forestry. In the Office of Public Works we have a commitment from the Department of Forestry that it will be completed by mid-1985. That would coincide with the time schedule for the other two so that it is estimated that the three surveys will conclude together. If the Deputy wants details of the survey, this will be with the Department of Fisheries and Forestry.

Mr. Kitt: Is it not the position that two of these studies are to be carried out jointly, the studies on the oysters and the Turlough between the Department of Fisheries and Forestry and the Office of Public Works? I received a reply from the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry on 6 December last which stated that no expenditure had been incurred by his Department last year up to then on surveys and studies on the river and the question of departmental involvement in 1984 had still to be decided. In view of that reply, would the Minister of State [2286] not agree that there is absolutely no co-operation between the Department of Forestry and the Board of Works on this question and that the Minister for Forestry has reneged on his responsibility for drainage?

Mr. J. Bermingham: I cannot agree at all with that because we have an undertaking from the Department of Fisheries and Forestry that this survey will be completed by mid-1985. That would coincide with the other two surveys I mentioned earlier. For that reason the details of how the survey will be carried out has no connection with this. It is a consultant firm who are doing the oyster bed survey. There is no connection between that and the wildlife survey as I understand it.

Mr. Molloy: Is the survey being carried out by the Department of Fisheries and Forestry on the effects on wildlife at Turlough?

Mr. J. Bermingham: That is right.

Mr. Molloy: In regard to that survey, are the Department of Fisheries and Forestry doing that work without making any charge to the OPW for the work? Are they doing it free? No sum is shown in the Estimates covering the cost of that.

Mr. J. Bermingham: That is not in my brief. The Forest and Wildlife Service of the Department of Fisheries and Forestry are considering the future of the Turlough wildlife habitat.

Mr. Molloy: Are they doing that work for the OPW? If so, is there a charge? If there is a charge, where is the money shown in this year's Estimates?

Mr. J. Bermingham: A study of the possible effects of drainage on the fisheries interest in the catchment is scheduled for completion in 1985. If the details of how the scheme is being implemented are requested, I submit that that is a question for the Department of Fisheries and Forestry because they are implementing that scheme. We have been assured that the results of their work will [2287] be seen in 1985 which will coincide with——

Mr. Molloy: Who is paying for it?

Mr. J. Bermingham: That is not in my brief.

Mr. F. Fahey: I ask the Minister to come clean and tell the House that those surveys are merely a window-dressing exercise to placate those who are putting pressure on this area for so many years and that his Department are not serious about the drainage of this river, as indicated in the reply to Deputy Kitt. Will he confirm that the Government's policy now is to phase out drainage throughout the country by the decision——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is a statement.

Mr. F. Fahey: Is their intention to phase out drainage throughout the country? That is exemplified by their decision to lay off 250 workers. The unbelievable aspect of this is that it costs only a quarter of the amount to employ those workers——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is not a question. You could describe it as a white paper on public works.

Mr. F. Fahey: Let us have this confirmed. Is there not a decision? Have the unions not already been informed——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We are not dealing with policy in the OPW. We are dealing with Question No. 2 on a case raised by Deputy Molloy and that is what is on the Order Paper.

Mr. F. Fahey: OK, let the Minister answer the first part of my question. I would like him to come clean once and for all on this question of the Dunkellin drainage.

Mr. J. Bermingham: The implication of the Deputy's question is that I am bluffing and that we have no intention of [2288] draining any river. That is not so. It is necessary to do these three surveys in connection with the drainage of the Dunkellin river. The study of the oyster beds is being carried out completely by a consultant and will require two years' monitoring of the bay. That is a big operation. We just cannot do that kind of survey in a minute. It is being done and there is no cut-back on it. A consultant has been employed to do that, he is carrying it out and he will work on it until it is finished. Is that clear?

Mr. F. Fahey: There is no money in the Estimates for the Department of Fisheries and Forestry for that.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is not a question.

Mr. J. Bermingham: I cannot account for the Department of Fisheries and Forestry.

Mr. Molloy: By letter or otherwise, could the Minister convey information to me with regard to what the Department of Fisheries and Forestry are supposed to be doing for his Department in regard to the preparatory works for this drainage scheme?

Mr. J. Bermingham: The Forestry and Wildlife Service of the Department of Fisheries and Forestry are considering the future of Rahasane-Turlough wildlife habitat and the effects the drainage will have on that.

Mr. Molloy: They could be sitting down at a desk considering that. We would like to know the extent of the work they are doing. Where is the charge for it? If we saw how much was being spent on it we would know the extent of the work being done.

Mr. J. Bermingham: The only undertaking I have been given about this is that it will be completed to coincide with the other two matters, which are vital also.

Mr. Molloy: Is the Minister aware of the reply to my Question No. 238 of 31 [2289] January from the Minister for Finance which stated that the only moneys being provided in regard to preparing the Dunkellin-Lavally drainage scheme were those referred to in this question, that is for the investigation into the oyster beds and the likely effects on the ground-water and no moneys were being provided, according to this statement in the Estimates? The question related to moneys being made available by the Department but for what works? It does not cover any works in regard to Turlough. We recognise that this is a very important aspect of the preparatory scheme for this drainage. If that work is not going ahead apace with the rest, then in 1985 we will be told, “Sorry, we still cannot go ahead with this scheme”.

Mr. J. Bermingham: I have been assured by the Forestry and Wildlife Service of the Department of Fisheries and Forestry that this will be completed. If there is a question about what they are doing, the details of their investigation into this are a matter for the Minister of that Department.

Mr. Molloy: The work is being done for the Minister's Department and I am asking him if he will agree to let me have a letter setting out what that Department are doing for him.

Mr. J. Bermingham: It may not be true to say that they are doing it for our Department. That Minister is doing it as protection for his own Department and for wildlife also.

Mr. Molloy: There would be no need to do it unless the Minister's Department intended preparing a drainage scheme.

Mr. J. Bermingham: That is true.

Mr. Molloy: Therefore, the Department are causing expense, so surely there must be some arrangement between the two Departments.

Mr. F. Fahey: Is it correct to say that these surveys were commissioned 18 months ago with a life-span of two years [2290] and that they should be completed, according to the original intention, in two years? Now we find they are going back much further. I contend that what is quite clear from the replies the Minister is giving——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: You are repeating your speech.

Mr. F. Fahey: I will not make a speech. Those surveys are being done from a desk and I submit that the files are in the bottom drawer.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: A question.

Mr. J. Bermingham: The surveys being carried out by the two consultants certainly are not being done from a desk.

Mr. F. Fahey: Where is the money being used?

Mr. J. Bermingham: The exact money is being paid to the two consultants, as I said in my reply, which the Deputy would have heard had he been listening. The exact amount was given in my reply to Deputy Molloy's question. I detailed the money spent last year and estimated to be spent this year.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Question No. 3. We have spent 20 minutes on Question No. 2.

Mr. Kitt: I have a question——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I have called Question No. 3.

Mr. Kitt: I want to ask the Minister——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am sorry.

Mr. Kitt: There is a great deal of interest in this.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Ceist a 3.