The project team have completed the Constraints Study. As part of the Constraints study, a walkover survey was undertaken in September 2019 to identify and map features of interest from an environmental perspective and to inform the ecological baseline assessment of the study area. The preliminary walkover survey, at this early stage, allows consideration of any significant ecological constraints to the project design and to scope future specialist surveys. The walkover survey had particular regard for protected habitats and species, including habitats/species listed in Annex I, II and IV of the EU Habitats Directive, protected species under the Wildlife Act and rare flora listed in the Flora Protection Order. The survey further considered the presence of invasive plant and animal species along with semi-natural habitats of conservational value. The survey identified the need for an Otter Survey, which was carried out in January 2020, along with a hydro-geomorphological assessment of the Pound and Owenass rivers through Mountmellick.
The Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) will be prepared as part of Stage 1 of the scheme. It will fulfil the requirements set out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the ‘Guidelines on the Information to be contained in Environmental Impact Statements’ (EPA, 2017) which outline the transposed requirement of the European EIA Directive 2011/92/EU as amended by Directive 2014/52/EU, and in the consolidated Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2018. The Report also references the ‘Guidelines for Planning Authorities and An Bord Pleanála on carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment’, published by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in August 2018. When completed, the Report will be put on public display and will be available on this website.
The purpose of the EIAR is to document the environment in the vicinity of the proposed development site in an effort to quantify the possible impacts, on the environment. The assessment process served to highlight areas where mitigation measures may be necessary in order to avoid and reduce any potential impacts on the surrounding environment as a result of the proposed development. The objective is to facilitate the most efficient and positive design of the proposed scheme insofar as possible and to ensure that measures are in place to ensure that any adverse impacts are avoided, reduced or compensated for, as appropriate.
The environmental assessment process will be ongoing throughout the planning and design of the project. Information gathered or alternatives suggested arising from public information days, meetings with stakeholders and written representations are considered on the grounds of engineering feasibility, environmental viability, existing constraints and economics.
Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and Wild Fauna and Flora, known as the ‘Habitats Directive’ - provides legal protection for habitats and species of European importance. A Network of specially protected ‘Natura 2000’ site have been designated under this Directive and a specific assessment process must be followed in order to assess impacts on any of these sites, if they exist within the vicinity of a proposed development. These sites are either Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) which protect habitat and species of concern, or Special Protection Areas (SPAs) which protect bird species of conservation interest.
A Stage 1 AA screening is the first point in the process whereby sites within a ‘zone of impact’ of the project are identified and any potential pathways of impact are shown. If there is no risk of impact to any of the sites identified (or if there are no sites within the zone of impact) the assessment is complete. If any impacts are potentially likely, the process must progress to stage 2 (NIS – or Natura Impact Statement). AA screening for this project indicated that there were possible pathways of impact between the planned works and the nearby Natura 2000 sites.
NIS (Stage 2 Assessment)
A (Stage 2) Natura Impact Statement is thus underway for this project and all likely impacts highlighted. Once adequate information on the construction and methodology is available, appropriate measures to avoid and reduce any potential impacts on the European site(s) will be detailed and implemented.