The memorandum of 2018 entitled Environmental River Enhancement Programme (EREP) relates to the Shared Service Agreement between the OPW and IFI. This umbrella title covers various series of scientific and habitat management investigations in arterially drained rivers, commenced in 2008. The EREP is the successor to the Environmental Drainage Maintenance or EDM Programme, involving a series of shared studies by OPW and IFI. The EREP, as with the EDM, has undergone significant development and transformation during the period since its inception in 2008. The Shared Service Agreement of 2018 set out a priority, within EREP, of an essential greater focus on scientific investigations within an emphasis on Water Framework Directive (WFD) requirements.
The investigations undertaken in 2018 covered a range of issues, completing a detailed 2-year examination of fish, habitat and barriers in the Inny catchment, continuing a programme of long-term monitoring of sites previously examined in the 1990s, examining options for OPW in regard to management of old channel meanders and of gravel traps among other priorities.
The Shared Service Agreement identified that a number of proposals could be examined annually within EREP in the context of river enhancement. It was also agreed by OPW and IFI that, in line with the WFD, the status of any waterbody where river enhancement works might be proposed would be assessed in advance of undertaking any works.
Waterbody status is assessed under WFD and an Ecological Quality Ratio or EQR is allocated. This is a WFD management process and the EQR identifies if a waterbody is in HIGH, GOOD, MODERATE, POOR or BAD status. Sites identified as being in HIGH or GOOD status are deemed not to require further ‘intervention’ to improve status. The Agreement identified that detailed EQR data would be collected for fish community and for habitat in any waters where works were being proposed, in advance of any determination to proceed.
It is, therefore, a priority that the scientific evidence gathering process, underpinning proposed works, should be advanced and completed before any determination on proceeding with works is finalised. In that regard, and in view of the commencement of the current Shared Service Agreement in 2018, thus far work has concentrated on the essential data gathering element agreed under EREP.