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Guidelines on the Planning, Design, Construction & Operation of Small-Scale Hydro-Electric Schemes and Fisheries


Irish Government policy is to encourage the production of energy from renewable resources through the Alternative Energy Requirements Scheme. The European Union has also supported the generation of electricity through hydropower under the Alternative Energy Resources Programme (Altener) as a means of reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuel sources. The introduction of these schemes and recent advances in turbine and pipeline technology has lead to an increased interest in the development of small-scale hydro-electric schemes in Ireland. This resource has previously been assessed when the then Department of Energy published among several documents Small-Scale Hydro-Electric Potential of Ireland which identified 568 sites thought suitable for possible development (Anon, 1985).

Hydro-power developments have the potential for significant impact on the aquatic resource and it is essential that where such schemes are permitted, the fisheries resource is adequately protected, without interference to fish movement, habitat or water quality, (OConnor, 2002). There are many examples from Britain and Europe (Cowx, 1998) where serious impact on migratory salmonids has resulted from hydro-electric power developments. Even small-scale hydro-electric schemes can have an effect through excessive water abstraction, inadequate fish passage provisions or inadequate smolt screening procedures. The commonest problems affecting the migration of salmonids in Irish rivers have been listed by Murphy (2000).

This paper draws on available information on the potential impact of small-scale hydro-electric schemes on the fisheries resource and recommends guidelines for the protection of the fisheries interest which should be followed. Experience of the impact of small-scale hydro-electric developments in Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland are examined and the recommendations made to resolve these impacts are considered in drawing up these guidelines. The problems relating to large hydro-electric schemes (e.g. Shannon, Erne, Lee, Liffey, Clady) are on a different scale and not likely to be encountered frequently in the future in Ireland. The operation of these large schemes are been reviewed elsewhere (OFarrell et al.,1996, Mathers et. al., 2002).

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