Tag Archives: ESB

Building Ardnacrusha

I had a page with photos of the construction of Ardnacrusha in 1930; I have expanded that page to include

  • photos taken in the 1920s by Eyre Chatterton and kindly supplied by Tony and Blair Chatterton
  • links to the ESB Archive’s reports made by Siemens during construction; h/t Carthach O’Maonaigh for drawing them to my attention.

 

Trigonometry and obfuscation

Every so often Waterways Ireland (whom god bless and preserve) sends out a Marine Notice to warn people of sporting activities, so that they can avoid them, and of one or other of the hazards of the navigations. One such, No 68 of 2016, issued on 9 June 2016, says (inter alia):

The attention of all is drawn to the dangers associated with overhead power lines in particular sailing vessels, sailing dinghys and workboats with cranes or large airdrafts.

Vigilance is required especially in the vicinity of slipways and dinghy parks, while voyage planning is a necessity in order to identify the location of overhead lines crossing the navigations.

ESB Networks emergency number is (353)1850 372 999 and Northern Ireland Electricity Networks is (44) 0800 616 817.

Then on 21 July 2016 Waterways Ireland issued Notice No 89 of 2016, which was specific (as far as WI is concerned) to the Northern Ireland navigations. Extracts:

Many sailboats have masts of 9m (30ft) or more and, as most of these masts are made of aluminium, they are an excellent conductor of electricity. If an aluminium mast or rigging come into contact with or too close to power lines, it could result in a fatality.

NIE Networks advises all boat owners to take some simple precautions to stay safe.

  • Plan your route carefully when transporting your boat to or from where it is being launched, making sure you have adequate clearance under overhead power lines. When you are stepping the mast or erecting long aerials, be sure to do so in an area totally clear of overhead power lines.
  • Once out on the water, if you are sailing on inland waterways or near islands or headlands, you should still look for overhead lines as they do cross over waterways. You must ensure that your mast or aerial has proper clearance from any power lines.
  • Always check your charts when underway to ensure you are aware of the location of overhead power lines.

In order to avoid hitting an overhead power line with a mast, it would be useful to know how high off the water, perhaps at Ordinary Summer Level, the power line was. Then you could subtract from that the height of your mast, and some safety factor, and decide whether you could safely sail under the line.

If you don’t know how high the power line is, you have to resort to trigonometry. My recollection of these matters has perhaps faded a little, but as I recall you stand a small boy of known height on your cabin roof and, with your eye level with his feet, you measure (a) the horizontal distance from his feet to your eye and (b) the angle from the horizontal to a line from your eye that touches the top of the boy’s head and the bottom of the power line. Then the small boy falls off the roof, you have to tack, your pencil falls overboard and it all seems much more difficult than finding the height of a tree. And of course you can’t measure the distance to the power line without sailing up to it, which is what you’re trying to avoid until you can decide whether you can safely do so. [Note: this paragraph is not to be used for navigation.]

Life would, therefore, be much easier (and safer) if you knew the minimum clearance under the power lines. Happily, NIE Networks is happy to tell people what it is; I emailed and a speedy response including this:

The clearance on all NIE Networks overhead power lines which cross over navigable waters is 10.5m (lower bank to line or earth). All overhead power lines are marked on navigation charts for the Erne and Lower Bann waters.

However, it should be noted that this is the clearance for NIE Networks overhead power lines and applicable to Northern Ireland only. Clearances for overhead power lines in the Republic of Ireland may be different and would require confirmation from the Electricity Supply Board (ESB).

Big it up for NIE Networks, then. But over several years I tried unsuccessfully to get the ESB to give me the equivalent information for lines crossing navigable waterways in the republic; it would not do so. Without that information, boaters cannot “ensure that [their] mast or aerial has proper clearance from any power lines”, so ESB’s advice is useless blather.

It is some time since I last asked ESB for information, and perhaps it has since been made available, but I see no sign of it on the ESB website. I would be glad to hear from anyone who can supply reliable information.

Delegated authority in the ESB

Just over a year ago, in June 2015, I wrote — at some length — about the right to navigate the Shannon through Castleconnell, Co Limerick. A member of the staff of the ESB fisheries department told me

The legislation empowering ESB to regulate activity on the Shannon is contained in the Shannon Fisheries Act 1935 – Section 9.1 (D).

That accorded with my own untutored understanding: according to Section 9 (1) (d) the Board is empowered to

(d) terminate, restrict, or otherwise interfere with, either permanently or temporarily and either compulsorily or by agreement, any easement, way-leave, water-right, fishing right, or other right over or in respect of any land or water[.]

However, I responded to the ESB pointing out that the existence of a power does not prove that the power has been exercised, much less that it has been exercised validly. I asked for information on (inter alia)

 

[…] what strategic decisions the Board has made on this subject, or what decision-making powers it has conferred on its fisheries staff […]

whether the Board has actually decided to “terminate, restrict, or otherwise interfere with, either permanently or temporarily and either compulsorily or by agreement, any easement, way- leave, water-right, fishing right, or other right over or in respect of any land or water”

if it has so decided, what the details of the decision are: details both of its making and of its application [.]

 

The Act gave the ESB a power, but the power has to be exercised properly and there must be a record of the making of the decision. I have had no reply to my queries, and my working hypothesis is therefore that the ESB has not validly terminated, restricted or interfered with the right to navigate the Shannon at Castleconnell. If I receive evidence to the contrary, I will of course change my view.

One part of the problem is that the Act gives the power to the Board and, in my view, employees of the Board cannot of themselves decide to exercise that power unless the Board has validly delegated the power to them. The fisheries department cannot close the navigation unless the Board explicitly gave them the power to do so.

A case at the Court of Appeal, reported in the Irish Times today [11 July 2016: the article may disappear behind a paywall at some stage], seems to support that view [although I am not a lawyer: please consult your own legal advisers]. The relevant paragraph is

The board was entitled to delegate the power to issue wayleave notices to its chief executive but was not entitled to “sub-delegate” to the chief executive power to authorise such other persons as he deemed appropriate to issue wayleave notices, Mr Justice Brian Cregan held. Any such persons had to be directly authorised by the board.

I suggest that the same may apply to fisheries and navigation. If the navigation at Castleconnell was validly terminated, restricted or interfered with, either the Board took that decision itself or it explicitly delegated the power to do so to the fisheries department (or someone else). In either case, there should be a Board minute on the matter and it should be possible for the fisheries department to cite that minute.

 

Shannon lake levels

According to the Shannon Catchment-based Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Study Technical Assessment: River Shannon Level Operation Review [PDF: Office of Public Works v2_0 July 2012]

ESB collects and maintains records of rainfall, river and lake levels and flow data. Even though ESB has no responsibility to supply flood warnings under their regulations, it issues twice weekly lake level forecasts to all the relevant stakeholders since 2010.

Those stakeholders include Waterways Ireland.

As the levels of the lakes are of great interest to boat-owners and others, it would be really nice if either the ESB or Waterways Ireland were to publish those forecasts. WI wouldn’t need any elaborate new system: they could send them around as marine notices, and the cost would be minimal.

But perhaps the forecasts are already published somewhere? If, Gentle Reader, you know where they are, do please leave a Comment [preferably with a link] below.

ESB water discharge info

Here is the ESB’s Notifications page, with info on the rate of discharge from its hydroelectric dams and weirs. Today (14 December 2015) Parteen Villa Weir is discharging 440 cumecs (cubic metres per second or, roughly, ton[ne]s per second down the original course of the Shannon. That’s 44 times the 10 cumec usually discharged and more than replaces the 400 cumec diverted through the headrace to the Ardnacrusha power station. The Shannon is therefore running at its pre-Ardnacrusha levels and the Falls of Doonass have regained their power.

Of course if Ardnacrusha didn’t exist, its 400 cumec would be coming down the original course of the Shannon on top of the 440 cumec already there, which would make for interesting levels of flooding.

That ESB page has a link to this infographic, which shows the sort of information I was trying to get across here. I usually start from Leitrim [village]; the ESB starts slightly further upstream at Lough Allen. Note that the Shannon’s few locks are concentrated upstream of Lough Ree: between them and Killaloe are only two locks, at Athlone and Meelick, so the river’s fall is very slight.

 

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

 

Monitoring water levels

Several organisations maintain sensors that detect water levels; some of them publish their readings on tinterweb.

The Office of Public Works, for example, shows real-time water levels here; this page shows the changes at Banagher over the past thirty-five days. It may be that the ESB’s run-off of water at Parteen Villa Weir has been having some effect.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of monitoring stations but you have to swear not to burn down the queen’s dockyards, insult the president or sell your granny before you’re allowed to look at it. When you’ve done that, you can view Hydronet data, but you have to choose your River Basin District first. If you choose the Shannon RBD, you get a list of stations — none of them on the Shannon itself — arranged in no comprehensible order, so you’re on your own after that. Here’s the one at Tyone on the Nenagh River by way of example.

Finally, Waterways Ireland has information here. The page takes quite a while to load. It covers only the waterways for which the body is responsible and information about the current water level (as compared with MSL Malin) is of limited use unless you’ve been monitoring it for some time. And, alas, there is no information on anywhere on the Shannon south of Meelick (Victoria) Weir, presumably because Waterways Ireland can’t control anything south of that.

Who can? The ESB, and I suspect they must have gauges at, say, Killaloe, but if they do I can’t find the readings published anywhere. It would be a boon and a blessing to men if ESB were to publish its information.

There is one other source of information that might help: there are some webcams on Irish rivers. Farsons have several, though none on the Shannon, and at the moment I can’t get any of the Irish ones to work for me.

 

Shannon water levels 8 December 2015

North to south (more or less)

Floods 20151208 Shannonbridge 01_resize

Shannonbridge upstream

Floods 20151208 Shannonbridge 07_resize

Shannonbridge downstream

Floods 20151208 Shannon Harbour 04_resize

Shannon Harbour: 36th lock

Floods 20151208 Shannon Harbour 06_resize

Shannon Harbour: below the 36th

Floods 20151208 Shannon Harbour 16_resize

Shannon Harbour: road to Banagher closed

Floods 20151208 Banagher 03_resize

Banagher: the harbour above the bridge

Floods 20151208 Banagher 05_resize

Banagher: the harbour’s sole inhabitant

Floods 20151208 Banagher 09_resize

Banagher: work goes on

Floods 20151208 Portumna bridge 01_resize

Portumna Bridge: Hawthorn moving

Floods 20151208 Portumna bridge 03_resize

Portumna Bridge

Floods 20151208 Portumna bridge 02_resize

Below Portumna Bridge

Floods 20151208 Portumna bridge 10_resize

Above Portumna Bridge

Floods 20151208 Portumna bridge 12_resize

Portumna Bridge: Waterways Ireland yard

Floods 20151208 Mountshannon 01_resize

Mountshannon

Floods 20151208 Mountshannon 04_resize

Mountshannon: the main quay

Floods 20151208 Scarriff 01_resize

Scarriff: the river in flood

Floods 20151208 Scarriff 02_resize

Scarriff: the river flowing on to the road to the harbour

Floods 20151208 Scarriff 06_resize

Scarriff: sandbags blocking the road …

Floods 20151208 Scarriff 04_resize

… to the Waterways Ireland Shannon HQ. Anyone in the building must have waded there

Floods 20151208 Tuamgraney 01_resize

Tuamgraney

Floods 20151208 Killaloe 16_resize

Killaloe: the flash lock

Floods 20151208 Killaloe 26_resize

Killaloe bridge from downstream

Floods 20151208 O'Briensbridge 02_resize

O’Briensbridge

Floods 20151208 O'Briensbridge 05_resize

Water level with the quay at O’Briensbridge

Floods 20151208 O'Briensbridge 10_resize

Flooded fields at O’Briensbridge

O’Briensbridge is on the original course of the Shannon, downstream of Parteen Villa Weir, which controls how much water goes via the original course and how much goes to the hydroelectric power station at Ardnacrusha.

Normally, the original course gets the first 10 cubic metres per second (10 cumec, they say) of water and Ardnacrusha gets the next 400, 100 for each of its four turbines. In floods, any excess is sent down the original course, through O’Briensbridge, Castleconnell and Plassey. One newspaper today said that, on Monday 7 December 2015, 315 cumec had been sent down the original course and, on Tuesday 8 December, 375 cumec.

The water levels are still below the peak achieved in November 2009, but there is more to come: as the Shannon drains a very large amount of Ireland, and as it is falls very little in its upper reaches, it takes a long time for the runoff to reach Killaloe and Parteen Villa. It may be that the ESB, which controls Ardnacrusha and Parteen Villa, is now running down the level of Lough Derg to make room for the water that has yet to arrive from the upper Shannon.

 

The ESB and eels

A minister speaks [or at least reads out a script prepared by other people].

I see that

The independent Standing Scientific Committee on Eels sets targets of quantities to be transported annually.

Which would be nice, if transporting eels were an end in itself. But the object is surely to increase the eel population, and I note that the minister had nothing to say on that subject. Nor did he tell John McGuinness what the stock of eels was. So we have no idea whether all this activity is achieving anything, and responsibility is diffused amongst the members of an Standing Scientific Committee on Eels, none of whom seem to have any stake in the matter.

This is a clear case for privatisation: sell the eels and the fishing rights to people [cooperatives, as on Lough Neagh?] who will have an interest in managing the populations of eels, rather than in managing the numbers trapped and transported.

The minister also introduced a red herring about compensation, which he wasn’t asked about. By my reckoning he answered only half the question, and even that credits him with answering the ritual invocation “if he will make a statement on the matter”.

ESB and the Shannon

I wrote here that I had written to the ESB, on 27 May 2015, to ask about navigation on the Shannon from Castleconnell downstream. One month later, I have not yet received a reply.

I did hear this weekend that ESB had contacted certain boat-owners to inform them that they were not to moor to the ESB embankments between Portumna and Meelick. As a riparian landowner, ESB is no doubt within its rights, but it would be interesting to know how much of the bed of the Shannon it claims to own in that area.

I have still not been able to find out, from the ESB, the clearance under its high-voltage lines crossing the Shannon (and other navigations). I gather that the ESB works on the principle that, if it provides no information, it can’t be blamed if owners of masted vessels electrocute themselves, whereas if it did provide information it might be sued. Strange that a public sector body should have such a blasé attitude to the prospect of the electrocution of the citizenry.

Perhaps if I asked questions under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations 2007/2011 I might get replies.