The work programme for the Blue Dot Catchments Programme for implementation during the 2nd cycle River Basin Management Plan was adopted by the Steering Group on 26th of September 2019.
The Programme objectives are:
1. Agree a vision for the protection and restoration of high status waters in Ireland. 2. Determine what constitutes a Blue Dot water body / site / catchment, and agree on a spatial network of high status waters in Ireland. 3. Agree branding for high status / blue dot waters. 4. Prepare a communications and engagement plan. 5. Establish pilot projects for community engagement and action. 6. Work together with the Department of Housing Planning and Local Government1 to establish appropriate planning guidance for the protection of Blue Dot waters. 7. Influence national schemes and programmes which can prioritise the protection and restoration of Blue Dot waters. 8. Assist in improving the exchange of information within and between local and public authorities and with Government Departments. 9. Consider areas where further research is required. 10. Review proposals for site specific measures for high status objective water bodies from LAWPROs work programme and the LIFE IP (if successful). 11. Contribute to the development of a long term strategy for high status waters
The sub catchment has an area of 141km2 and is made up of six water bodies. It captures all the streams, rivers and lakes that form headwaters to the Avonmore River. It starts in northeast parts of the Wicklow Mountains with Cloghoge and Inchavore Rivers that flow through Lough Tay and Lough Dan to form the Avonmore River. The river then flows south through Annamoe village down to Laragh village, where it meets Glenmacnass River that also rose in the Wicklow Mountains.
Two of the water bodies that make up the sub catchment are are Blue Dot rivers: Avonmore_010 and Avonmore_020, and have a high status objective. Both have fallen to good status and are considered to be at risk of not meeting their objective under the River Basin Management Plan. Historically these rivers have been at high ecological status which means they have the potential to achieve and maintain high conditions. With the change down to good ecological status we know that these rivers are at stress and need action for the restoration. However, it should also be noted that a third waterbody in the sub catchment has improved to high status and has been high during two monitoring cycles.
The significant pressures in the catchment are forestry and agriculture. This catchment was chosen in consultation with Coillte and the Forest Service as there is likely to be significant forestry activity in the area during the life of the project and will allow appropriate management strategies for high status areas to be developed.
➢ Wicklow Mountains SAC IE0002122: Possible effect due to the location of the project within the Natura site. ➢ Wicklow Mountains SPA IE0004040: Possible effect due to the location of the project within this European site.
The applicant submitted a Natura Impact Statement (completed 14/07/2021) to facilitate the Minister carrying out an appropriate assessment. Niall Phelan, Principal Consultant, Environmental Facilitation Ltd, acting on behalf of the DAFM, subsequently evaluated the submitted NIS.
In relation to Merlin, the following mitigation is required, presented in the form of conditions to be attached to any licence: A) No Felling or other forestry operations associated with this licence shall take place during the period 1st March to 31st August inclusive, within 100 metres of the forest edge, where such forest edge is immediately adjacent to moors, heathland, peat bogs or natural grassland; or within 100 metres of a clearing in the forest of larger than one hectare. Such operations can commence in sections of the project area furthest away from the 100 metre exclusion zone. Such operations can progress towards this exclusion zone but can only enter it during the period 1st September to 29th February inclusive.
In relation to Merlin and Peregrine, the following mitigation is required, presented in the form of conditions to be attached to any licence:
A) Retain existing scrub on site, to maximise opportunities for prey species.
B) Broadleaves / diverse conifers should be planted along the northwest boundary in an undulating fashion to create a sequence of varying spaces. Sharply defined edges should be avoided to create a gradual transition from forest to open ground. The minimum initial planting density required is 1,100 stems / ha.
In relation to the protection of adjoining / downstream aquatic based species and habitat, the following mitigation is required, presented in the form of conditions to be attached to any licence issued:
A) All operators will be provided with an up to date harvest plan and will be appropriately briefed on all of the conditions set out in the determination.
B) Demarcations will be set out at all sensitive points in the project to ensure machinery does not unintentionally traverse into exclusion zones.
C) Prior to harvesting, all water related hotspots and abstraction points (as defined in Circular 12/2017 and marked on the Harvest Plan submitted for this file) shall be identified on the ground and a clearly marked machinery exclusion zone of 10 metres shall be established around them.
D) Drains must always clearly stop short of buffer zones. If an existing drain has a preferential flow path (effectively discharging directly into aquatic zone or relevant watercourse), use sediment traps or drain blocking as appropriate. Additional sediment traps should be considered where the setback is deemed ineffective. E.g. if not vegetated or where the sediment traps are not fully functional.
E) Relevant operations must cease during and after periods of rainfall sufficiently heavy to result in the loss of nutrients and/or the mobilisation of sediment, fine organic matter and debris into receiving waters. Ground conditions must be monitored during rainfall, and records of such monitoring and of any resulting operational adjustments and postponements must be kept for possible inspection.
F) No water related hotspot (as defined in Circular 12/2017) shall be directly traversed by any machine.
G) Machinery crossing of internal drains shall be minimised and only be undertaken with the use of appropriate log bridges. With respect to temporary crossings, these shall avoid localised wet and/or hollows banks. Drain banks will not be disturbed during construction. Construction will involve a combination of logs and plastic piping, with a protective brash layer placed on top to catch silt and sediment dropping off machine tracks.
H) Extraction routes are to be planned to avoid hotspots and ensure that individual routes are not used excessively during harvesting operations. Locate timber landing bays at least 50m from the nearest aquatic zone.
I) Brash and branch wood is to be utilised to create and maintain brash mats along all machine routes during harvesting operations at all times.
J) Extra brash will be applied along main extraction racks and at timber stacking areas, to accommodate higher levels of machine tracking, including the use of extra lengths of timber to prevent soil disturbance.
K) Loose brash and lop-&-top will be carefully removed from exclusion zones as and when they fall/ stray into these areas.
L) With respect to temporary crossings, these shall avoid localised wet and/or hollow banks. Drain banks will not be disturbed during construction. Construction will involve a combination of logs and plastic piping, with a protective brash layer placed on top to catch silt and sediment dropping off machine tracks. These will be carefully removed when no longer needed, carefully avoiding sediment release with their removal.
M) Silt traps to adhere to the specifications set out in the Interim Standards for Felling & Reforestation (see Section 7 (or similar), are to be installed before operations commence onsite, and are to be monitored and maintained throughout operations. Any build-up of captured sediment is to be removed and deposited on the forest floor at least 5m from the relevant watercourse.
N) Small logs will be deployed to control movement of silt/sediment in critical areas and throughout site where necessary, as shown in Section 7 of the Standards for Felling & Reforestation (DAFM,2019).
O) Historic mound drains with direct connectivity to relevant watercourse or aquatic zones must be identified prior to commencement of operations. These pathways must be blocked.
P) Rutting must not be permitted to develop from machine trafficking with machine movement and ground conditions monitored throughout operations to ensure soil rutting and the creation of potential pathways for the movement of water do not develop.
Q) Roadside drains must never discharge directly into aquatic zones or relevant watercourses. As with all drainage channels they must taper out before entering the buffer zone. Where deemed necessary, install sediment traps at the intervals along drainage channels to intercept sediment and needles.
R) Maintenance of internal and roadside sediment traps is essential. Inspect periodically to ensure they are free of debris and sediment, undertaking remedial action if necessary. Grassy vegetation in drains is not to be removed as this will filter sediment as water percolates through it.
S) Plants will only be treated with approved insecticide acetamiprid off-site in the nursery, approved by Pesticide Registration and Control Division, DAFM. Any on-site application will only be undertaken following an appraisal using the Integrated Pest Management Policy and applied by manual spot spraying only.
T) Any herbicide such as glyphosate will only be applied by manual spot spraying on local competing vegetation that threaten the survival of the tree following an appraisal through the Integrated Pest Management Policy.
U) As set out in the NIS, fertiliser application will be manual and restricted to elemental phosphate at no more than 42 kgs/ha to support the establishment and growth of newly-planted trees.
V) Chemicals must only be used during dry weather and must only be used in accordance with S.I. 155 of 2012. Store and prepare all chemicals, fuel and machine oils, and undertake all machine refuelling, maintenance and repair, at a dry, elevated location onsite at least 50 m from the nearest aquatic zone or relevant watercourse.
W) Inspect all protective measures periodically to ensure continued functionality throughout operations.
Adhere to all water protection measure guidance relating to sediment management, felling, cultivation, herbicide application, the location of onsite storage depots and the disposal of waste including: Environmental Requirements for Afforestation, December 2016 (DAFM, 2016), Forestry Standards Manual (DAFM, 2015), Felling & Reforestation Standards (v. Oct. 2019) (see Forest Service Circular 14 / 2019), Forestry and Otter guidelines (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, 2009.
The basis for this AA Determination is as follows:
This 10.08ha clearfell and reforestation project is located on peaty podzols on a steep slope. The project area lies within the Wicklow Mountains SPA and directly adjacent to the Wicklow Mountains SAC. The project area consists entirely of Sitka Spruce. Small pockets of open area occur within the project area. There are no aquatic features within or adjacent to the project area.
However, the project area is located on a steep slope, sloping towards Lough Dan (located approx. 150m west). Live validated records of freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) were noted <3km downstream however, the records were noted downstream from Lough Dan. Appropriate aquatic zone and watercourse measure protections have been set out including specific otter measures and good practice aquatic measures for the relevant designated features. The above conditions in combination, along with strict adherence to the guidance cited, will eliminate pathways of impact of significance to European sites.
Data from DAFM’s internal records identified various forestry-related projects (either submitted and still under evaluation, with valid licences / approval in place or completed and approved) in the general vicinity of the project
Forest Road Projects
Private Felling Licence Projects
Coillte Felling Licence Projects
This project lies in a rural landscape in Ballinrush,Carrigroe, Wicklow in the River Sub-Basin AVONMORE_020. The River Sub-Basin AVONMORE_020 has approximately 36% forest cover, which is higher than the national average of 11%. At 10.08ha the project is considered medium in scale.
Forestry activity (including afforestation, forest roading and felling) within the sub-basin which have either been submitted and still under evaluation, licenced / approved or completed in the last 5 years, are listed above.
Appropriate Assessment Pre-Screening Report for Clearfell and Reforestation project WW03-FL0080, located at Ballinrush and Carrigroe, Co. Wicklow
The Wicklow Mountains SPA is of high ornithological importance as it supports nationally important populations of Merlin, a species that is listed on Annex I of the E.U. Birds Directive, and has been recorded breeding near the site of this proposed forestry operation.
As such, all forestry operations should take place outside of the breeding season for these species – 1st March until 31st August
Wicklow CoCo recommended re-stocking with native species;
“Very steep location on peat with very soft water – acid sensitive – consider replant with native species rather than non native conifer monoculture.”
Licence is for 100% re-stock with Sitka
NPWS submission includes:
The proposed felling area is entirely within the Wicklow Mountains Special Protection Area (SPA) for Birds (Site Code 004040). The Wicklow Mountains SPA is of high ornithological importance as it supports nationally important populations of Merlin, a species that is listed on Annex I of the E.U. Birds Directive, and has been recorded breeding near the site of this proposed forestry operation. As such, all forestry operations should take place outside of the breeding season for these species – 1st March until 31st August.
Licence is not nearly as restrictive
No Felling or other forestry operations associated with this licence shall take place during the period 1st March to 31st August inclusive, within 100 metres of the forest edge, where such forest edge is immediately adjacent to moors, heathland, peat bogs or natural grassland; or within 100 metres of a clearing in the forest of larger than one hectare. Such operations can commence in sections of the project area furthest away from the 100 metre exclusion zone. Such operations can progress towards this exclusion zone but can only enter it during the period 1st September to 29th February inclusive.
Reason: In the interest of protecting the Special Conservation Interest of the Wicklow Mountains SPA as per the Appropriate Assessment determination for WW03-FL0080.
Forestry Service can disregard the recommendations of prescribed bodies
Most licences are published on the FLV. View the AA Determination where an AA has been conducted as that will contain mitigation conditions which will be referred to in the licence.
Key document is the (Interim) Standards for Felling and Reforestation – this is DAFM’s Standards document which details the main criteria that need to be adhered to.
There are certain areas where forestry operators regularly fall down – brash management, rutting, functioning silt traps, failure to remove materials from the site (used oil cans, disposable gloves, etc);
Some operators are now using paper bags to transport the re-stock trees. These bags are often left on site to rot down but Sitka Spruce are pre-dipped with chemical at the nursery so the bags could be chemically contaminated.
Felling licences should have Harvest Plans – private licences would usually have these on the FLV but Coillte does not submit Harvest Plans with its applications. They currently need to be sought from Coillte via AIE
Two important reference documents are the Irish PEFC and FSC National Standards. These are only relevant to forestry operations that are certified but this includes most big players
The protection of high-status water bodies is one of the main priorities of the current River Basin Management Plan.
The Plan sets out several actions to protect and improve high status waters including the establishment of a blue dot catchment programme.
A coordinator for the programme has been appointed by LAWPRO and a steering committee established, chaired by Kerry County Council.
Blue Dot National Steering Group had its inaugural meeting in January 2019.
Chairman: John Breen, Director of Services for Water, Environment, Fire and Library Services, Kerry County Council
Members unknown but representatives from:
Blue Dot Working Group Local Authority Waters Programme Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government Kerry County Council Wicklow County Council Donegal County Council Mayo County Council Coillte Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – Agriculture & Forest Service Environmental Protection Agency Irish Water National Parks and Wildlife Service Office of Public Works
The Steering Group met three times between January and May 2019.
Work programme drafted and presented for review to the Steering Group and other bodies for feedback in 2019.
Adopted the work programme in September 2019
“Visioning” workshop was held on 5th March 2020
LAWPRO have also formed an internal Blue Dot working group to support the role of the Blue Dot Scientist and develop guidance on local catchment assessments in high status objective water bodies.
Dear AIE Officer
The Blue Dot Catchments Programme aims to protect and restore high status waters in Ireland
Request under the AIE Regulations for an electronic copy of the following documentation
1) List of members of the Blue Dots Programme Steering Committee (Chaired by John Breen, Kerry CoCo)
2) Agendas/minutes of the meetings of the Blue Dot steering committee for 2021-2022
3) Work programme as adopted for 2021-22
This AIE has been cc’d to Kerry CoCo and Tipperary CoCo as unclear which authority is the appropriate authority for managing the Blue Dot programme
Proposed Red Dot approach is to identify where there are issues, notify the relevant ROCs, and then investigate and address the issues • 8 site notifications in 2020: 2 red dot sites (Ara and Sruhanagarve), 3 toxic impact sites (all on the Dawros river), 1 fish kill site (Nore) and 2 sites that declined by two status classes (Carhoo and Camlin). • End of 2016-2018, there were seven red dot sites. All have improved but remain unsatisfactory (6 poor and 1 moderate). • The 2 new Red Dot sites in 2019 improved to Poor in 2020. • 2 new Red Dot sites in 2020
Forest Service: planning to join a field assessment following a Red Dot notification in Longford in an area with forestry.
64 Blue Dots across 45 PAA – 13 returned to high Ecological Status 13-18 – 4 returned to High Biological Status, failing for Hymo (1 lake also for total phosphorous) • LCA complete in 34 waterbodies Referrals • 18 Blue Dots have ASSAP referrals • 6 Blue Dots have referrals for other bodies on the app • ~ 10 Protect referrals for Forestry
Pressures – Close to even split between the three main pressures, Hymo, Ag and Forestry
Rural development 2014-2020 for Operational Groups (in the sense of Art 56 of Reg.1305/2013)
This project aims to restore the high ecological status of the River Allow, a high-status objective waterbody in an agricultural catchment in Duhallow, Co Cork.
The objectives are to:
Restore &; protect the high status river through integrated catchment management.
Deliver a results-based payment scheme for farmers.
Implement actions designed to improve water quality, restore habitats, enhance biodiversity &; reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Develop an on-farm citizen science approach with farmers.
Increase community knowledge &; appreciation.
Inform national policy &; best practice.
Up to 100 farmers will participate in enhancing and restoring freshwater and terrestrial habitats on their farms. Farm specific management plans will be developed in close association with the farmer; including measures designed to improve water quality, enhance biodiversity and reduce GHGs. Measures will be based on the source-pathway-receptor model, reducing contaminants at source, intercepting them before reaching the river and restoring impacted habitats. A results-based payment system will reward participating farmers for improving & maintaining the nature value of their farms. Knowledge exchange programmes will empower farmers & increase environmental awareness.
The River Allow is part of the Blackwater SAC, designated for the conservation of freshwater habitats &; species. It is a high status objective river as defined by the Water Framework Directive. Agriculture is a significant pressure in the catchment &; the river is considered to be at risk of not achieving its high status objective. The protection of high status rivers is a national priority &; the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland proposes the “Blue Dot” programme as a measure to provide a structure towards their conservation &; management. The Allow Project will pilot the Blue Dot programme, developing an integrated catchment management system appropriate for agricultural catchments &; inform policy.
The project proposes to take a farmer-focused approach following a rural development model, which provides the framework for both practical support on the ground coupled with farmer-led knowledge exchange. Key to this will be the involvement of farmers who have already participated in agri-environment schemes, conservation programmes (e.g. EU LIFE) &; research programmes relevant to high status waters. Building on learned experience &; knowledge exchange the project will develop an integrated catchment management model for the implementation of the Blue Dot programme in agricultural regions
Expected benefits include:
• Integrated catchment approach involving all actors in the protection of Blue Dot catchments with farmers centre stage.
• A results-based farmer-led strategy &; suite of suitable measures developed for the restoration of high status rivers in agricultural catchments.
• Economic security in sustainable agriculture through a results based payment scheme.
• Improvement in water quality within the targeted objective high status sites.
• Enhanced biodiversity value of farmland habitats and promotion of high nature value farming.
• Improved conservation status of the Blackwater SAC.
• Better energy &; nutrient management with reduction of greenhouse gas &; nutrient emissions.
• Practical guidance &; knowledge enhancement for policy makers, agencies and stakeholders.
• Greater community appreciation and knowledge of the importance of high status rivers.
• Farmers trained as citizen scientists &; empowered to make sustainable choices in agricultural practices.
• Certification for agricultural contractors who uphold the Blue Dot standard for farming in high status catchments.
The measures of the Allow Project are intended to protect watercourses from farm-related pollution with the overarching aim being to protect and, where necessary, restore the high status of the Allow catchment. Following the source-pathway-receptor continuum, a variety of measures will be implemented to reduce sediment and nutrients at source, intercept mobile contaminants and restore river habitats. In order to monitor the effectiveness of these individual measures and the overall impact of the project on catchment status, a combination of biological and physiochemical monitoring approaches combined with a citizen science initiative will be implemented. A number of strategically selected monitoring locations will be established within the catchment in order to gather the necessary baseline data. Annual monitoring at the selected locations will take place in order to assess any longitudinal changes in catchment status over the course of the project. Parameters measured will include water quality, aquatic invertebrates, aquatic plants, birds, fish and terrestrial biodiversity such as pollinators. This will be complimented by a citizen science initiative where participating farmers will be trained in monitoring the effectiveness of their actions.
Contact person: Maura Walsh
Address: IRD Duhallow, James O’Keeffe Institute, Newmarket, Co. Cork.
Start Date: 01/01/2018 End Date: 30/06/2019 Total Budget: 299,573 € EU Contribution: 100,000 €
Coordinating Beneficiary: Department of Housing, planning and local government Legal Status: PUBLIC Address: Custom House, 1, Dublin, Ireland Contact Person: Donal GRANT Email: email@example.com Tel: +353868107813
The Waters of LIFE is an EU LIFE Integrated Project which aims to help reverse the deterioration of Ireland’s most pristine waters. The ongoing loss of high status waters is among the most concerning, protracted and persistent water quality trend in Ireland.
Other water quality trends have well-understood cause and effect, with detailed plans in place to mitigate impacts. More actions are necessary to protect pristine waters. Many of these waters are small, upland streams. The protection and restoration of these waters is one of the key underpinning principles of the Water Framework Directive.
The overall objective of the Waters of LIFE IP is to support the implementation of measures to protect and enhance High-Status Waters and thus to support the work of the Blue Dot Catchments Programme as outlined at Section 8.3.2 (pages 103-105) of the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021.
The Waters of LIFE IP will act as a catchment-scale demonstration project to test and validate the effectiveness of implementing locally-tailored ‘best practice’ measures across a range of landscape and land-use management activities typically associated with the catchments of high-status waters. The project will trial and validate the implementation of measures at the catchment scale across a number of pilot catchments with the view to building national understanding and capacity, optimising approaches for the targeting of measures in critical areas of the catchment, assessing the effectiveness of the approach and using the learnings from the project to inform and support ongoing work across all high-status catchments in the Irish River Basin District. It will demonstrate the effective implementation of an integrated catchment-based approach for the application of measures to protect and/or restore all waters for which a high-status objective has been identified in Ireland’s River Basin Management Plan.
Outputs from the project will support the refinement and ongoing development of guidance and measures for farming, forestry and other land-use practices in the catchments of high-status waters. Critically, project outputs will provide input to the development of future national policies and strategies for the protection of high-status waters, in particular approaches for the elaboration of future agri-environment and forestry support measures needed to protect and preserve this important environmental resource.
The project will focus on demonstrating the practical application of bespoke locally-tailored solutions at both the catchment and the plot scale, based on best scientific understanding of the environmental circumstances and priorities within individual catchments and taking account of the input and views of local farmers, landowners and people within the community who have knowledge of their own locality. The project will give strong emphasis to harnessing community involvement, ownership and goodwill in order to achieve mutual benefits and deliver the necessary land-use management changes to support the long-term protection and maintenance of high-status waters.
Tenders are invited for the provision of consultancy services to prepare a framework of best practice measures and guidelines for the protection and enhancement of high status river waterbodies.
All relevant measures that may have application in high status river catchments will be identified and evaluated through the review process. Although not all will be trialled in demonstration catchment applications in this project, the framework will be available for roll out to support RBMP objectives, and the wider Blue Dot Programme in particular, for the full range of national high status catchments and the diversity of issues and scenarios to be addressed.