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TOBIN Consulting Engineers commissioned the first modern survey of the whole River Barrow navigation, over 68km from Athy in Co.Kildare, to the tidal reaches at St Mullins in Co Waterford. In sharing that survey with those who use and care for the waterway, we formed a partnership which identified all the concerns, and addressed them.

Thorough consultation demands a great deal of patient dialogue, focussed effort and careful preparation for the social acceptance of a project, but we in TOBIN know the dividend that comes from doing it well.

Securing permission to abstract a water supply of 40 Mld from the River Barrow, under the Kildare Water Strategy, was a particular challenge.

The Barrow is a manmade navigation, many of whose twenty three weirs, twenty three locks and many bridges date from 1770. It powered Athy, the first ever town in Ireland, or Britain, to be electrically supplied by hydropower.

The large towns of Carlow, Athy, Portlaoise, Monasterevin and Portarlington, sit within the catchment, and a total of five County Councils, and the port of New Ross were interested parties.

The Barrow Steering Group had 21 member bodies, including the Inland Waterways Association. There were five hydropower operators, nine commercial barge operators, seven owners of fishery rights, and 765 riparian owners.

We commissioned the first modern survey of the whole navigation, over 68km from Athy in Co.Kildare, to the tidal reaches at St Mullins in Co Waterford. In sharing that survey with those who use and care for the waterway, we formed a partnership which identified all the concerns, and addressed them. The project, as part of the accommodation works on the Navigation, includes remediation to the Bagenalstown Lock, which occasionally has caught the keel of some deeper draft vessels.

The dividend from a thorough and open consultation, is often realised in an uneventful, routine Oral Hearing.

We were very gratified that none of the bodies consulted felt the need to pursue objection to the abstraction, and any citizen who did object, had received individual written responses to their concerns, before the Public Oral Hearing was convened by An Bord Pleanala. The project was approved and is moving to construction.

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