Offaly farmer James Casey is worried the proposed 170km pipeline to bring water from the river Shannon to Dublin could put him out of business.
Casey milks 140 cows at his farm in Rathrobin, Co Offaly. He is particularly worried about the impact during the construction phase which he believes could last a year or longer. "It is actually cutting off a lot of land from the farmyard," he explained. "I will nearly have to get out of milk for a couple of years while this is going on."
Construction of the pipeline requires a 50m corridor, roughly the width of Dublin’s O’Connell Street, running through land belonging to about 500 people.
Casey’s family has farmed his land for about 100 years. He built up his own herd and has recently invested heavily in equipment. As the cows need to be milked in the farmyard twice daily, Casey said the division of his land will have a hugely damaging effect on his business with about three-quarters of the farmland cut off.
“If I had to depopulate the herd I would never get back in,” he said.
Casey also expressed concern the project would devalue his land as the pipeline route would be subject to planning restrictions. “It has left me in an awful situation, I’d say there are other dairy farmers in the same situation.”
Another Offaly farmer and IFA member, Enda Bracken, in Mountbolus, is also worried about the implications.
“People want more information, it is a very big project,” he said. “We reckon it will greatly devalue our farm.”
Bracken was first alerted to the plans when he was visited by an Ervia/Irish Water representative in February. “He was sussing out all of the landowners,” he said. There were later visits by representatives looking at environmental issues: “They were there during the summer looking for snails and yokes.”
When asked if money was discussed, he said, “They won’t tell us anything about that craic. All they’ll tell us is if you give enough trouble they will just CPO [compulsory purchase order].”
Bracken added, “They are saying you will be compensated but you will be taxed on that.”
He too is concerned about possible disruption during construction. He fears drainage works could be damaged and they might have problems with subsidence. However, he feels fortunate that the proposed pipeline runs through the end of his farm. “A lot of farmers would just rather if it didn’t happen. They’d rather be left alone and just tip away.”
Chairman of the IFA Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, Thomas Cooney said the biggest concern for farmers is the disruption to the farm when construction is taking place.
“Another worry is the construction of associated infrastructure, such as air vents and washout valves which could protrude from the ground.”