Dáil Éireann - Volume 487 - 26 February, 1998

Written Answers. - Raised Bog Conservation.

97. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands if she will give a detailed report on the EC project under Cohesion Funding to conserve and restore a number of Irish raised bogs; and when the completed works may be inspected. [5325/98]

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss de Valera): Raised bogs are considered a priority habitat under the EU habitats directive, and Ireland has the best remaining examples of this habitat type in western Europe.

The European Commission recognised the importance of conserving this habitat type and consequently approved a project under the Cohesion Fund aimed at conserving and restoring a number of Irish raised bogs. The total cost of the project is 2.5 million ECU, of which 85 per cent is refundable by the EU.

Following an initial survey and subsequent consultations with the EU, a number of raised bogs were selected for inclusion in the project, all of which are proposed SACs. Those selected represent a cross section of the range of variation of this habitat in Ireland. They are situated in Counties Galway, Longford, Offaly, Roscommon, Tipperary and Westmeath.

The project involves a combination of land acquisition, drain blocking, dam construction work and monitoring. Land acquisition is necessary before work can commence and to date over 800 hectares of raised bog have been acquired under the project with the agreement of the former [1636] owners. The planning and design phase determines what works need to be carried out on site in order to conserve the bog. In many cases this requires site investigation and research work.

Conservation and restoration work usually involves the blocking of existing drains on the bog surface, or the construction of peat dams on the periphery of the bogs to prevent excessive water loss due to drying out and shrinkage in the bog margins. Drain blocking is carried out either by hand or by machine, depending on the depth and width of the drains in question. Peat dams are constructed where drain blocking is not sufficient to prevent the bogs from drying out. Monitoring is carried out to evaluate the changes which occur to the ecology and hydrology of the bogs following completion of the works.

The project was commenced in 1994. A considerable amount of work has already been carried out and the project is on course to be completed by the end of this year. The following is a summary of progress to date:

Lisnageeragh Bog, County Galway: Over 190 hectares of this bog have been acquired. Drain blocking is in progress and will be completed this Summer.

Fisherstown, County Longford: A number of plots adjoining the State-owned area have been acquired.

Clara Bog, County Offaly (Nature Reserve): A site of approximately 36 hectares adjoining the nature reserve has been acquired. An extensive programme of drain blocking by hand is ongoing and is due to be completed later this year. A contract to block a series of larger drains by machine has been completed.

Raheenmore Bog, Co. Offaly (Nature Reserve): A series of dams have been constructed on the north-east and south-east margins of the bog. A further dam on the north-west margin is in course of construction and is due to be completed this summer.

Aharavogue Bog, County Offaly: Drain blocking by machine has been carried out. The construction of a small peat dam and some works to the bog margins are due to be undertaken this summer.

Ballinagare Bog, County Roscommon: A number of small plots adjoining the existing State owned area have been acquired. Blocking of an extensive network of drains is largely complete. Some additional works will be carried out this spring.

Carrowbehy Bog, County Roscommon: A number of small plots adjoining the existing State owned area have been acquired.

Ballyduff Bog, County Tipperary: A number of small plots have been acquired.

Clonfinane Bog, County Tipperary: A number of plots have been acquired and a drain blocking contract has been completed.

[1637] Firville Bog, County Tipperary: A number of plots have been acquired.

Garriskill Bog, County Westmeath: A number of plots adjoining the existing State-owned lands have been acquired. A contract to block drains by machine will be completed this summer.