Several Connemara communities have called for the immediate suspension of activity on local wind farm developments, following identification of endangered freshwater pearl mussels in the local river catchment.
Freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera) are the oldest animals in Ireland, living up to 130 years, with fossils of the same family dating back to the dinosaur era 150 million years ago.
Three wind farms have been planned on lands between Barna, Spiddal and Moycullen within the Knock river catchment, where the only listed population of freshwater pearl mussels in south Connemara has been mapped by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
The bivalve is protected under the 1976 and 2000 Wildlife Acts, listed as an annex II species under the EU habitats directive, and relies on clean, well-oxygenated river beds.
Its presence in Co Clare was cited as one of three “reasons and considerations” given by An Bord Pleanála for refusing planning permission last July for a 46-turbine wind farm near Doonbeg, due to water pollution risks.
Residents of Knockalough, Lettergunnet and Shannagurraun say the fragile bivalve’s presence was referred to in only one of three environmental impact statements (EIS) submitted for the three wind energy projects in their area.
The projects are being spearheaded by Invis Energy as part of its €160 million wind energy investment plans for north Kerry and Galway.
The residents say a full survey of the freshwater mussel population should be carried out before there is any further progress on plans for the 29 turbines earmarked for their area, as part of Galway County Council approval of 103 turbines for the “gateway” to Connemara between Spiddal and Moycullen.
Construction is under way on two of the three farms, while the third, at Knockalough, is still on appeal with An Bord Pleanála. The county council has issued five enforcement notices relating to the construction, including unauthorised rock-blasting and habitat disturbance.
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