Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Questions (51)

James Lawless


51. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans for dredging or otherwise removing weed from the Royal and Grand canals, particularly through County Kildare, to enable boat, barge and canoe traffic and render same navigable to develop tourism and amenity prospects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24097/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Irish canals are unique aquatic ecosystems that are managed by Waterways Ireland to serve a multitude of recreational and amenity pursuits including navigation, angling, paddle sports, walking and nature study. 25 km of the Royal Canal and 86 km of the Grand Canal pass through Co Kildare.

Aquatic vegetation growing in the navigation channels of the Grand Canal and Royal Canal is not removed by dredging but is controlled by cutting with weed boat/weed harvester during the growing season (May to October), as resources permit and is currently on-going.

The growth (which increases with heat and water temperature) of aquatic vegetation occurs simultaneously along the 420km of navigable waterway in the Eastern Region and unfortunately it is not possible to cut all of it at the same time. In conjunction with this, the mechanical limits of weed cutting equipment can also cause delays in the length of navigable channel cleared which can upset the planned weed control programme for the remainder of the season. Biodiversity and ecology concerns need to be taken into account too.

Waterways Ireland is guided by its 3 year Aquatic Weed Management Plan (2017 to 2019) for the Grand and Royal Canals and is informed by operational needs and best international practice. The plan considers both protected and invasive aquatic weed species (IAS) and pays due cognisance to the need for biosecurity during all aquatic weed control operations, in order to minimise the spread of invasive alien species (IAS).

In 2018 Waterways Ireland in conjunction with Kildare County Council completed a scoping exercise of the tourism businesses and amenities of Co Kildare. Businesses in the county were invited to capacity building workshops to assist them in cross-selling, networking and building out their business to take advantage of the tourism opportunities the Royal Canal and associated products could provide. This work is continuing in 2019. On the Grand Canal work is at an early stage to begin the same process. Waterways Ireland promotes tourism along the waterways through a "Head into The Blue" strategic marketing campaign. Businesses engage with the campaign which rolls out across the island, North and South through the provision of offers. Businesses in Co. Kildare have participated in this campaign in 2019.