Warrenpoint Port bosses abandon dredging plan over ecological concerns
Bosses at Northern Ireland's second largest port have abandoned plans to create a more cost-effective dredging site in the mouth of Carlingford Lough over environmental concerns.
Warrenpoint Port authorities made the decision after an analysis of the proposed location between Cranfield Point and Greencastle revealed substantial differences in water flow during ebb and flood tides make the site infeasible.
Chief executive Clare Guinness said early results from a site characterisation study revealed the proposal would potentially have an unacceptable detrimental impact on the ecology and aquaculture within the lough.
"Throughout the process we have been clear that should the scientific research identify the potential for such an impact, then the proposal would go no further," she said
"We are pleased to deliver on this commitment as conservators of the marine environment and will immediately cease pursuit of a revised dredging proposal."
The data, which was compiled by aquaculture consultancy experts Longline Environment, indicates that sediments disposed of at the proposed in-lough site will not travel as far out to sea as first anticipated.
It also infers that any material which reaches the seabed is likely to drift back into the lough.
The study involved conducting a range of experiments which saw 400,000 cubic metres of material disposed of in three different scenarios.
Gravel, sand and mud migrated into the lough each time material was deposited at the proposed new site. Only material disposed of at the current site, 10km from the shoreline, did not drift back into the lough, where water flow fluctuates significantly.
South Down Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard welcomed the action taken by port authorities which he said delivers on a promise to be guided by science.
"Seeing that these proposals would potentially damage the sensitive ecology and aquaculture in the lough they have taken the responsible decision to not move forward with the proposals," he said.
He added that the local community will be pleased that the protection of the lough's marine environment has been prioritised above profit.
"They will look forward to again engaging constructively with the port in finding an alternative model for addressing the increased silting of the harbour and its impact upon the competitiveness of Warrenpoint Port," he said.
Earlier this year the port announced it is set to pump £3m into its infrastructure to ensure it is Brexit-ready.