Galway could experience more severe storm surges and flooding than the city is already exposed to if its port is extended southwards, an oral hearing of An Bord Pleanála has been told.
An Taisce and the Cladonian Mariners’ Community Boat Club both warned of the risks on the second day of the appeals board’s hearing into the first phase of the €126 million port expansion plan.
An Taisce representative Ian Lumley urged An Bord Pleanála to conduct its own independent research into the potential flooding risk.
“This hearing shouldn’t be taking place at all,” he said. “We should be sitting here finding out how Galway will adapt to sea level rise and climate change. He recalled the storm surge impact on the city in December 2013 and early 2014.
The developer’s prediction of a 0.5-metre sea level rise and 20 per cent increase in peak river flow is outdated, given the most recent inter-governmental scientific reports, he said.
Fears about the impact of the development on fragile stocks of wild Atlantic salmon, European eel and birdlife were also expressed by
Inland Fisheries Ireland
Galway Bay is designated as a candidate special area of conservation for selected habitats and species and a special protection area for birds.
The project involves reclamation of almost 27 hectares of foreshore and seabed, and loss of almost 37 hectares of inter- tidal, sub-tidal and wetland habitat. But the quality of the protected areas is not of "particularly high intensity", Dr Brendan O'Connor, appearing for the Galway Harbour Company, told presiding inspector Paul Caprani.
The company proposes to replace habitat lost under the provisions of the EU habitats directive on the basis of the Imperative Reasons of Over-riding Public Interest (IROPI) clause. However, this is up to An Bord Pleanála to determine, Dr O’Connor said.
Much of the area has already been exposed to natural fluctuation and storm deposition, along with emission of untreated sewage in the past, which resulted in reduction in diversity of marine species, he said.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service will address the hearing today.