Repair and upgrade of Meelick Weir on the River Shannon

ECOFACT are currently preparing an Environmental Impact Statement and Natura Impact Statement for proposed repair and upgrading works at Meelick Weir on the River Shannon. The works proposed include the replacement of the walkway and the weir boards with a new walkway and moveable tilting gates. Parts of the walkway were washed away and sections of the weir where boards are put in and out by hand were damaged by the floods of 2009. This weir also has inadequate fish passage facilities and we are recommending that new fish and eels passes are included in the final design for the repair and upgrade of this weir.  Our assessment is being undertaken on behalf of Waterways Ireland.

Here is a photo gallery of Meelick weir. These photos were taken during our surveys to inform the above assessments, and included surveys at various times of the year.

The study area lies within the boundaries of the River Shannon Callows cSAC. This is a long and diverse site which extends for approximately 50 km from the town of Athlone (at the southern point of Lough Ree) to the town of Portumna (northern point of Lough Derg). The site mainly consists of seasonally flooded, semi-natural, lowland wet grassland along and beside the River Shannon. Smaller areas of lowland dry grassland, drainage ditches, freshwater marshes, reedbeds and wet woodland also occur within the site along the River Shannon. The study area also lies within the boundaries of the Middle Shannon Callows SPA. This site is of international importance for wintering waterfowl and of national importance for breeding waterfowl.

In 1926 a dead pike that reportedly weighed 90lbs and was 5ft 61/2in long was found at Victoria Lock

The only rapids and alluvial woodland – in the entire middle reaches of the River Shannon – occur downstream of this weir. Even here you do not experience the full flow of the river, as much of the flow is diverted away from here via the “new cut” that runs through the nearby Marlbourough sluices. The river channel downstream of Meelick weir was dredged and heavily modified during Victorian times; however this is still a very wild place. If you ever want to get an appreciation of what the Old River Shannon may have looked like before the Shannon scheme you should visit here. The Old River Shannon is the stretch of the Lower River Shannon downstream of Parteen Regulating Weir, which currently receives a compensation flow of just 10 m3 sec-1 where the natural 95%ile flow prior to the Shannon scheme was at least twice this.

The video below is an aerial video that we took using a drone during October 2015 from the Victoria Lock side of Meelick Weir.

The Meelick stretch of the River Shannon is very important for angling and used to be one of the most important salmon angling areas on the River Shannon. Along with the former Coreen and Creggan Fords on the Lower River Suck (which were regrettably removed in the 1980’s to make the lower River Suck navigable – a waterway that is now little used), the Meelick stretch of the Shannon was one of the prime salmon beats of the River Shannon. Indeed, it retained this status even up to the early 1990’s prior to which the ESB supported the fishery by releasing large numbers of salmon parr from Parteen Hatchery into the Rivers Brosna and Suck which lie upstream, and into the River Little Brosna which joins the Shannon at Victoria Lock. Sea survival for salmon is lower today and the ESB release modest numbers of unfed fry rather than bulk releases of larger parr. Management of fish passes at the Shannon dams has also changed – all to the detriment of salmon in the River Shannon. However, when the fish passage problems of the Lower Shannon are inevitably addressed the Meelick weir stretch of the River Shannon is likely to regain its status as a salmon fishery again.

This area of the river is also renowned for coarse fish and the stretch between here and Portumna is one of the most productive and popular on the River Shannon. In 1926 a dead pike that reportedly weighed 90lbs and was 5ft 61/2in long was found at Victoria Lock. This pike had choked to death while trying to swallow a 15lb salmon, and was then washed downstream onto Meelick weir. According to Fred Buller, in his Domesday Book of Mammoth Pike, the pike was weighed and measured by a Herr Hassee – a German engineer employed by Siemens to do preparatory work for the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric scheme.

ECOFACT have extensive experience of environmental studies on the River Shannon, and are also working with Waterways Ireland on a number of other projects in this catchment.

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Also feel free to contact us to discuss issues relating to Meelick Weir, or the River Shannon in general.

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