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Flood relief scheme contractor pays €10,000 over Bandon River fish kill

View of Kinsale from mouth of the Bandon river. Wills Bros had provided €10,000 to IFI for habitat rehabilitation and improvement works

A contractor on one of Ireland’s largest-ever flood relief schemes has paid €10,000 to Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) to improve river habitats after a court found it was responsible for a fish kill.

Wills Bros Ltd, of Foxford, Co Mayo, was prosecuted by IFI over an incident on May 10th, 2017 on the Bandon river in Co Cork. It was alleged at Bandon District Court that up to 200 fish were killed when a pool – formed by the construction of a haul road in the river – rapidly lost water.

Wills Bros, contracted by the Office of Public Works, had denied a charge under the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959, as amended, of injuring or disturbing the spawn or fry of salmon, trout or eels.

The court heard that while haul roads had previously been constructed tight to the bank, the presence of a fish stand, a protected structure, meant that on the day of the incident a separate pooled area was formed. Water levels meant there was no earlier concern about fish being trapped. However, the porous nature of the material around the pool, and dredging nearby, resulted in a rapid loss of water.

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Judge Mary Dorgan said in July of last year that the case against Wills Bros had been proven beyond reasonable doubt. She asked the Probation Service to explore a potential restorative justice solution.

When the matter returned before Bandon District Court last week, Judge Dorgan heard that Wills Bros had provided €10,000 to IFI for what were described as habitat rehabilitation and improvement works.

IFI said some matters had yet to be resolved but that the €10,000 would be used to improve spawning habitats in tributaries of the Bandon river and to help mitigate some impacts of the flood relief scheme.

These works must be concluded by next March. The matter will return to court on March 29th next, with the issue of costs yet to be finalised.