Silt from Howth Harbour likely to be used for major extension to West Pier

Plans under consideration could cost up to €28m depending on the extent of the harbour dredging

Howth Harbour. The Department of the Marine described the silting situation at the harbour as a “concern”, and said it was committed to dredging about 225,000 cubic metres of silt. Photograph: Getty Images

Howth Harbour. The Department of the Marine described the silting situation at the harbour as a “concern”, and said it was committed to dredging about 225,000 cubic metres of silt. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Up to 30,000 truckloads of contaminated silt due to be dredged from Howth Harbour in north Co Dublin is likely to be used for the construction of a major extension to the historic port’s western pier.

The Department of the Marine has been considering options for the last number of years, and is now close to deciding what to do with almost a quarter of a million cubic metres of material.

The preferred option is to simply remove the silt from a large area in and around the harbour and use it for “land reclamation” – specifically an infill off the west pier measuring approximately five hectares. Plans under consideration could cost up to €28 million depending on the extent of dredging.

This would mean substantially expanding the 200-year-old fishing port which attracts thousands of tourists every year. The ultimate use of the infill would be subject to further consideration, the department has said.

While the silt is contaminated and unsuitable for dumping at sea, the nature of the material – believed to be oil and other harbour-related waste – is considered “non-hazardous”.

Exactly how local businesses and residents feel about the plans will become clear when consultations begin over the coming months. The completion of a planning application and environmental impact statement is expected within the next 18 months.

However, harbour users, both fishing boats and pleasure craft, have been calling for dredging for some time, with water channels having become shallower since the last clearance was undertaken in the 1980s.

In January 2018, the department held public consultations on a separate proposal to carry out major erosion defence works on the opposite East Pier. Both projects would be expected to cause significant disruption in and around the harbour area.

Busy harbour

Social Democrats councillor Cian O’Callaghan said the dredging plans were positive and welcome, essential to ensure the future viability of a busy harbour and its related employment.

“The local community will want to see the plans and drawings for what the infill will look like,” Mr O’Callaghan said, adding that such an extension could be used to offer greater local access to the adjoining Claremont beach.

“I think the key thing here is to make sure that these changes respect the character of the harbour and that they enhance it.”

A consultancy report produced by Malachy Walsh and Partners for the department notes that reuse of the silt material would “provide a more cost-effective method of disposal than removal to landfill”.

While other areas of the harbour are also suggested as potential sites for infill, the report says the West Pier option is preferable.

Dredging would not be expected to commence until at least the middle of next year. The operation would take about 18 months, according to the report.

The Department of the Marine described the situation at the harbour as a “concern”, and said it was committed to dredging about 225,000 cubic metres of silt. It has been in consultations with Fingal County Council.

Funding

A variety of factors will impact on the cost, although funding, while expected, has not yet been confirmed.

“It is the department’s view that an option to reuse the dredged material to the west of the West Pier as part of the methodology for the project is the most effective, efficient option,” it said.

“If the option to reuse the material is not possible the potential costs of the project increase significantly, and the overall scope of the project would have to be re-examined.”