Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent, Irish Times
Published: Sep 19, 2007
Consultants for Shell E&P Ireland have published a shortlist of three “corridors” for a modified Corrib gas onshore pipeline route in Co Mayo.
All three routes, including the most direct corridor down Sruwaddaccon Bay, are within designated environmentally sensitive areas under the EU Habitats Directive.
However, Shell’s consultants say that approval can still be secured if it can be proven that “controlled construction techniques” can “minimise environmental impact”.
A final route is expected to be selected from these three corridors by the end of the year and may be submitted to An Bord Pleanala for approval under the Strategic Infrastructure Act if Bord Pleanala accepts it under the new fast-tracking legislation.
The consultants say the Corrib gas developers intend to submit the entire pipeline route to the appeals board, if permitted – the first time the pipeline will have been subjected to any planning approval, and a significant victory for the Shell to Sea campaign.
However, An Bord Pleanala’s remit only extends to the inshore section. Consent must also be secured from Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan.
Five other corridors which were identified by RPS Consultants for the Corrib gas partners last June have not been ruled out, but are now categorised as “less preferred”.
The three “preferred” corridors follow part of the original high pressure pipeline route, but aim to “increase the distance between the pipeline and the nearest dwelling”. Government mediator Peter Cassells recommended modifying the original route in the vicinity of Rossport in his report last year. He noted that that route was just 70 metres from the nearest normally occupied house.
Corridor A, from the landfall for the offshore pipeline at Glengad to the refinery at Bellanaboy, diverts north from the previously approved route, and RPS says it is farther away from homes and avoids population clusters over much of its 10.5km length. It traverses commonage east of Rossport, and also crosses an intact blanket bog within the Glenamoy Bog Complex Special Area of Conservation.
It also involves a short crossing of Sruwaddaccon Bay and two river crossings. Parts are important feeding grounds for waders and for the internationally protected light-bellied Brent goose.
Corridor B from Glengad to the terminal is 8.3km long and travels mostly on land, but involves two crossings of the bay and a transit via Aughoose. Consultants say there are “no homes within the 300m corridor”.
Corridor C from Glengad to the refinery is identified as one of the shortest corridor options at 8.2km, but traverses 4.5km of Sruwaddaccon Bay conservation area. Apart from its importance for birds, the bay also forms part of the Glenamoy river salmon fishery and is important for both salmon and sea trout, the consultants note.
P J Rudden, RPS director, said that the three corridors “offer the best prospect of satisfying the community, environmental and technical criteria”.
Experts, including archaeologists, ecologists, engineers and marine specialists, would examine them further, and the corridors are also on public display today at the RPS project office in Belmullet, Co Mayo.
The consultants say they will continue to consult with landowners, keep the community updated on progress and provide a monthly “focus week”.