Tag Archives: Plassey

Limerick water levels 14 December 2015

The Abbey River

Abbey Bridge 20151214 01_resize

Abbey Bridge

Baal's Bridge 20151214 04_resize

Baal’s Bridge

Mathew Bridge 20151214 01_resize

Mathew Bridge

Mathew Bridge 20151214 05_resize

Current heading for Mathew Bridge

The Shannon in Limerick

Shannon in Limerick 20151214 02_resize

The weir

Plassey

Plassey 20151214 01_resize

Lots of pumps running and equipment trundling about the place

Plassey 20151214 02_resize

Trouble at t’mill

Plassey Millstream 20151214 01_resize

T’millstream

Plassey 20151214 10_resize

Cots on the bank

Plassey Black Bridge 20151214 01_resize

The Black Bridge getting another hammering

Annacotty

I have been told that the Mulkear River rose very rapidly on Saturday night and that, at one time, it was feared that the (older) bridge would be swept away. I gather that folk working in other areas were called to Annacotty to deal with the emergency.

Annacotty 20151214 01_resize

The old bridge at Annacotty (downstream face)

Annacotty 20151214 12_resize

A tree in the water above the bridge

Annacotty 20151214 14_resize

There’s a weir in there somewhere

The Mill Bar in Annacotty was closed today after being flooded.

Annacotty 20151214 15_resize

The Mill Bar

Annacotty 20151214 03_resize

This, from a small garden beside the bridge, suggests that the Mulkear may have carried and deposited a lot of silt

The Park Canal

I gather that the Mulkear’s waters, added to those of the Shannon itself, raised the level of the Park Canal (the bottom section of the Limerick Navigation). A problem with opening the lock gates, to release the water, meant that a few houses in Corbally were flooded. A Sinn Féin councillor, whose party colleague has been responsible [with her southern counterpart] for slashing Waterways Ireland’s budget in recent years, is quoted as saying

I am in no doubt it was primarily caused by the ineptitude of Waterways Ireland.

Alas, the news story does not tell us the source of the councillor’s certainty.

The article also says that

[…] the force of this water meant it was not possible to open the lock gates by hand.

That is, I think, misleading: neither set of gates has gate beams, so they are not opened by hand.

park canal mist 03_resize

The upper gates in 2004, shortly after installation. Note the absence of gate beams. Note also the two sluices or paddles on each gate

Park Canal 20151214 31_resize

Control pedestal and gear

Park Canal 20151214 11_resize

The upper gates open today

I see no sign of the paddles or sluices. Perhaps the level is so high that they’re underwater. I must try to check next time I’m at the canal harbour.

Canal lower lock floods 20091128 1_resize

The upper gates in the floods of 2009

In the floods of 2009 the upper gates were held slightly open and all four sluices were discharging water. That would have lowered the level in the canal; it would also, I think, have made it easier to open the gates fully.

I am guessing, but I imagine that on Saturday night some sort of hydraulic machine was brought in this way …

Park Canal 20151214 21_resize

Two bollards have been moved from the gateway and stacked beside it

… and used to push or pull open the near-side upper gate. There seems to be some slight damage to the stone and iron work.

Park Canal 20151214 10_resize

Slight damage

One other possibility that struck me is that silt from the Mulkear might have built up behind the gates, making them difficult to open, but I have no evidence on the matter.

Park Canal 20151214 12_resize

The lower gates

Park Canal 20151214 22_resize

From the outside looking in

 

What’s a cumec, Daddy?

I don’t know, but here’s a picture of 415 of them flowing through Castleconnell. [Update 13 December: that may be only 405 cumec.]

Castleconnell 20151212 10_resize

415 cumecs on 12 December 2015

Actually, a cumec is one cubic metre of water per second, which is roughly one ton per second, which is a lot of water. And 415 cumec is the amount that, according to the blatts, the ESB is currently letting down the original course of the Shannon from Parteen Villa Weir; the minimum flow in that channel, as seen in summer, is 10 cumec.

Castleconnell 12 December 2015

Castleconnell 20151212 02_resize

Younger trees getting their feet wet

Castleconnell 20151212 11_resize

Who’d have guessed?

Castleconnell 20151212 14_resize

Below the bridge

Castleconnell 20151212 21_resize

Above the bridge

Castleconnell 20151212 34_resize

Stormont

Castleconnell 20151212 37_resize

Pump

Castleconnell 20151212 40_resize

Sandbags

Castleconnell 20151212 42_resize

Sandbag Central

Castleconnell 20151212 43_resize

Sandbags filled here for distribution

Castleconnell 20151212 46_resize

Army engineers

Castleconnell 20151212 50_resize

More equipment arriving

Clonlara 11 December 2015

Headrace Clonlara 20151211 01_resize

Ardnacrusha headrace, said to take 400 cumec

PEC Errina Bridge 20151211 04_resize

Errina bridge on the Plassey-Errina Canal

PEC Errina Bridge 20151211 01_resize

The stop planks seem to be quite effective …

PEC Clonlara upstream 20151211 01_resize

… as there is little water getting down the canal to Clonlara bridge

Park Canal 9 December 2015

Park Canal 20151209 01_resize

Depth gauge at Park Lock

Park Canal 20151209 03_resize

Lock chamber

Park Canal 20151209 04_resize

Full canal upstream

 

Why the Shannon floods

From the search terms used, it seems that many people are visiting this site with questions about Parteen Villa Weir, water levels, Shannon floods and so on. They are not this site’s primary focus, but some non-technical information might be of interest.

The best place to start is with a map of the Shannon International River Basin District. As the Shannon RBD site says,

The Shannon International River Basin District is the largest in Ireland at more than 18,000 km2 in area. It covers the natural drainage basin of the Shannon river itself, stretching from the source of the River Shannon in the Cuilcagh mountains in Counties Cavan and Fermanagh to the tip of the Dingle peninsula in north Kerry. It also includes coastal parts of Kerry and Clare which drain to the sea. It flows through 18 local authority areas and is also an international RBD as a small portion of County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland drains underground to the Shannon Pot.

The district is about one fifth of the area of the island, one quarter the area of the state. Rain that falls on that area of land ends up in the Shannon (or in a few small rivers in Clare and Kerry that flow to the sea). Some goes to the Shannon estuary or its tributaries; most flows into the non-tidal Shannon, which means the river upstream of Limerick.

The nature of the Shannon

Ireland has been described as saucer-like, with a high rim and a low flat centre. It’s not entirely true, but there certainly is a very large central plain, and the Shannon flows down through the middle of that. And, because the land it flows through is flat, the river falls very little.

In 113 miles from Leitrim to Killaloe, the Shannon falls just over 30 feet; the navigation channel needs only five locks. [By way of contrast, the Thames has 45 locks over 135 miles; the Trent has 12 locks over 42 miles.] So extra rainwater allows the Shannon to spread out, covering a much wider area, and it takes time for that water to drain away downstream. But many of the rivers that flow into the Shannon have been subjected to drainage schemes, so they can get rid of their flood waters quickly … into the Shannon.

Why don’t they open [or close] the weirs?

There are some weirs on the Shannon, designed to keep a minimum depth in the river for navigation; there are also some natural obstacles that hold water back. But once the level has risen high enough, water simply flows over the top of the weir, and there is nothing useful anybody can do — apart, of course, from farmers’ representatives and politicians, who can always make use of a photo opportunity.

The bottleneck

Almost all the water that enters the non-tidal Shannon will eventually flow through Killaloe, the town at the southern end of Lough Derg [it’s on the west bank, in Co Clare; the east bank is Ballina, in Co Tipperary].

As James Robinson Kilroe wrote in 1907,

[…] we have the formidable barrier at Killaloe, naturally damming up a considerable depth of water in Lough Derg, and the river falling away southward by a series of rapids which correspond with drops in the canal, south of O’Briensbridge […], along an alternative course, possibly one used by a branch of the Shannon.

The diagrams with that article are worth a look.

In the twelve Irish (fifteen statute) miles between Killaloe and the tidewater at Limerick, the river falls about 100 feet: more than three times its fall from Leitrim to Killaloe. In the nineteenth century, the water level at Killaloe used to change by about eleven feet between summer and winter — even without storms.  The old Limerick Navigation, including the canal Kilroe mentioned, could drain only a small amount of water (which could put the navigation out of action); the rest went down the river’s original course through the Falls of Doonass.

The relief channel

Nowadays, the Falls of Doonass are a shadow of their former selves, and the water level through O’Briensbridge, Castleconnell and Plassey is much below its previous levels. I suspect that the older, larger trees along the river show the original level, with the newer, smaller trees having grown since the 1920s.

The cause was the construction of a relief drainage channel in the 1920s. This channel is controlled by a weir at Parteen Villa [not to be confused with Parteen]. Switch between the modern Street Map and the Historic views here to see what has happened.

Actually, of course, it’s not a relief drainage channel. The weir [sometimes referred to as the Hydro Dam] controls the flow of water to the original course of the Shannon [the right-hand or eastern channel, which gets the first 10 cubic metres of water per second] and the headrace for the hydroelectric power station at Ardnacrusha [the left-hand or western channel, which gets the next 400 cubic metres of water per second, 100 for each of its turbines]. The power station was built to use that 100-foot fall of the Shannon, concentrated between Killaloe and Limerick, to generate electricity.

But one effect of the construction of Ardnacrusha was to provide a channel, the power station headrace, capable of taking [at least] 400 cubic metres of water per second away from the original river channel, thus reducing the likelihood of flooding.

Cumec

Water experts talk about cumecs: a cumec is a flow of one cubic metre, or 1000 litres, of water per second. And a cubic metre of water weighs about one [metric] tonne, which is roughly the same as an imperial ton. So one cumec is one ton of water per second, which is a lot.

It was said, on 8 December 2015, that the ESB, using Parteen Villa Weir, had released 315 cumec down the original course of the Shannon on the previous day and had increased that to 375 cumec. If the Ardnacrusha headrace was getting 400 cumec, then the amount of water being discharged from Lough Derg and the upper Shannon had doubled.

Floods

As far as I can see, the Shannon has always flooded. The 2009 floods affected some nineteenth century houses, which I guess would have been flooded even worse before Ardnacrusha was constructed. However, I suspect that more houses have been built on the flood plain since then. But I don’t see that there is any way to prevent Shannon floods.

Envoi

There is a good article in the Irish Times of 9 December 2015; it will no doubt disappear behind a paywall at some stage.

Here is an ESB infographic about the Shannon.

Chains at the Black Bridge

It seems that the city edition of the Limerick Leader dated Saturday May 16 2015 carries a story saying that funding has been approved for the repair of the Black Bridge at Plassey. I can’t find the story on the Leader‘s website and I can’t find anything about it anywhere else [there is a limit to the amount of my life I am willing to spend trying to find anything on the Limerick Council website] except on the Leader‘s FaceTweet page, where I can expand the city edition front page.

There is a photo of several councillors, which of course is wonderful: no day is wasted if it offers an opportunity of looking at a photo of local councillors, especially important ones with chains.

From what I can read of the text, it seems that “councillors in City East” [which is not one of the Limerick districts listed here] are willing to spend €50,000 “to start work to make the walkway safe again”. And they hope that Clare County Council, the University of Limerick and Waterways Ireland will “also row in behind the project”.

Now, half a loaf is better than no bread, and €50,000 is better than a poke in the eye from a blind horse, but it’s not going to go very far towards the cost of repairing the Black Bridge. I don’t known whether it would even cover the cost of a full survey.

I’m sure that Waterways Ireland would be delighted to help, if the Department of Fairytales hadn’t raided its coffers to pay for Saunderson’s Sheugh. I have reason to believe that the university was willing to help — and that Clare County Council was not. I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the university, asking it for [recent] records relating to the Black Bridge. The university gave me three extracts from meetings of the Limerick Smarter Travel Steering Group:

9 January 2013
Funding not in place for Black Bridge

21 November 2013
Black Bridge: UL indicated that funding may be available from UL. LST [Limerick Smarter Travel] has indicated funding in the order of €100,000. UL may be able to mach [sic] this. Request for funding to be made formally to UL by LCCC and to include surveys and reports on bridge to date.

18 September 2014
RR said UL have set aside €100,000 towards Black bridge refurbishment but will need matched funding from LA [presumably local authority]. Black bridge will require a detailed study to identify what repair work will need to be carried out, also an AA study will be required, and proper consents from ABP [An Bord Pleanála?]. Funding currently not available from LA.
PON spoke to Clare Co Co. No funding available from them.
PC Department will not fund a pedestrian bridge.
RR can we look for alternative funding options, UL will ring fence for the moment.

An AA study is, I think, an Appropriate Assessment, a sort of employment creation scheme for bird-watchers who can read European directives [and sooner them than me].

The point to be remembered here is that Limerick County Council leased the bridge and undertook to keep it in repair; there is no obligation on Waterways Ireland, Clare County Council or the University of Limerick to spend a penny on it. The two parties on whom lies the responsibility for repairing the bridge are the Limerick Council and the Department of Finance, which latter has the power, under the lease, to do the work and charge it to the council. That would be a better use of its time and money than an unnecessary and intrusive footbridge in the middle of Limerick.

Politician asks sensible question shock

The invaluable KildareStreet.com tells us of this written Dáil question and answer on 4 February 2015:

Martin Heydon [FG, Kildare South]: To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if her attention has been drawn to concerns regarding the lack of dredging on the lateral canals of the River Barrow and overgrown vegetation which is making navigation difficult; her plans to improve this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

The lateral canal at Ardree on the Barrow

The lateral canal at Ardree on the Barrow [OSI ~1840]

Heather Humphreys [FG, Clones Sheugh]: I am advised by Waterways Ireland that, as the Barrow Navigation is wholly situated within the River Barrow and River Nore Special Area of Conservation (SAC), due regard must be given to the provisions of the EC (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011. These require a rigorous assessment to be carried out to assess the impacts of any work on the protected species and habitats, prior to any works being undertaken.

If the impacts cannot be screened out and a Stage II assessment is required, a full planning application must be made. In addition, the Fisheries Consolidation Act 1959 (as amended) prohibits any in-stream works, such as dredging, during the spawning season from October to June.

I am informed by Waterways Ireland that dredging on the lateral canals of the Barrow Navigation was historically done during the winter months but that this is not now possible. However, Waterways Ireland is working with Inland Fisheries Ireland to formulate procedures which would allow work to be carried out in accordance with the relevant legislation. In addition, Waterways Ireland is continuing to work with all relevant agencies to ensure that as much work as possible is carried out on the Barrow within the time constraints which exist.

I have been assured by Waterways Ireland that it remains fully committed to the development of the Barrow Navigation in line with its statutory remit.

This question produced useful information, whereas some TDs seem to ask questions only as a way of assuring their constituents of their undying love and devotion. See, for instance, Brendan Smith, who has asked the same question at least three times.

Note that the short dredging season presumably applies to other rivers that are within SACs, such as the River Shannon at Plassey.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

Plassey in 1851

Plassey August 2010 37_resize

Free the Black Bridge

Here is a page about a cot race at Plassey in 1851.

 

 

Two Limerick footbridges

The Black Bridge at Plassey has long had a place in the hearts of Limerick people. It was damaged in the floods of 2009 and has been closed to the public ever since. Limerick Council says it can’t afford to repair it. Limerick Council is, as far as I can see, in breach of the terms of its lease of the bridge from the Department of Finance; the Department of Finance could, but has chosen not to, insist that the Council repair the bridge.

In the meantime, the Minister for Finance, for reasons best known to himself, wants a new, er, iconic footbridge in Limerick city and is prepared to spend €6 million of taxpayers’ money, via Fáilte Ireland, on a structure that can scarcely avoid blocking some of the finest views in the city.

Now, the Limerick Leader tells us, the ghastly edifice is to cost almost €18 million: €6 million from the Minister for Finance (who represents Limerick), €4 million to be borrowed and €7.8 million from the leprechauns’ pot of gold under the thorn bush. Or somewhere. Even Fianna Fáil councillors think this is insane, which is saying something.

This ridiculous proposal should be abandoned immediately and a much smaller sum should be spent instead on repairing the Black Bridge as part of a European Route of Industrial Heritage.

The Minister’s €6 million is a gift-horse that should not only have its teeth inspected: it should be taken out and shot and its carcass sent to the burger factory.

The Black Bridge at Plassey

I am repeating here a point I made in response to a comment on this page. I do so because the point is, I think, an important one: some readers don’t check the comments and might miss this.

I have an imperfect copy [with some lines missing] of an indenture made on 8 July 1949 between the Minister for Finance and Limerick County Council under which the Council leased from the Minister

… all that those parts of the lands of Garraun and Sreelane on which Plassey Bridge abuts on both banks of the River Shannon and the site and piles of said Plassey Bridge together with said Plassey Bridge […].

I am not a lawyer, so my interpretation may be misleading, but I think that there are two points of interest.

The first is that, under the indenture, the Council is obliged to “well and sufficiently repair cleanse maintain amend and keep the hereby demised premises”, which includes the bridge. The Council is also required to “use the said demised premises as a public highway”.

The second is that, if the Council fails to do so, the Minister, and his agents the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, are entitled (after giving due notice) “to enter upon the hereby demised premises and to execute and to do the necessary repairs and works and the Lessees [ie Limerick Councy Council] shall repay the expenses of such repairs to the Lessor on demand […]“.

As far as I can see, Limerick County Council is in breach of its agreement with the Minister for Finance, and that Minister is entitled to repair the bridge and charge the Council for the cost.

If only there were a Minister for Finance who had an interest in Limerick (or in bridges) ….

Who writes this stuff?

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage on the Black Bridge at Plass[e]y and on Baal’s Bridge in Limerick.

It would be nice if the NIAH provided reliable historical information.

 

The Gillogue railroad

Gillogue, in Co Clare, is the site of a former Burlington factory and of a Clare entrance to the University of Limerick. It is also the site of a lock on the Plassey–Errina Canal, a section of the old Limerick Navigation, and of quarries, gravel pits and lime kilns.

And, according to the 6″ Ordnance Survey map, of around 1840, Gillogue also had a railroad.

The Gillogue rail road

The Gillogue rail road (click to enlarge)

The railroad was almost certainly not for carrying passengers; it may have been a light railway, with small wagons pushed by men or pulled by horses, and designed to be taken up and moved elsewhere fairly easily. However, I have no hard information about who owned it, who built it or what it was for. I can make guesses, based on its closeness to the canal and to the quarries, but it would be nice to have evidence.

If, Gentle Reader, you know anything about it, do please leave a Comment below.

My OSI logo and permit number for website