Lough Ennell Catchment Management Planning
More than 50 stakeholders and members of the public attended a workshop on the future management of the Lough Ennell catchment at the Bloomfield House Hotel, Mullingar, overlooking the lake, last week.
The event was organized by the Lough Ennell Trout Preservation Associated and funded by the local authority water scheme. Alan Lauder, ornithologist, conservationist, conservationist and land management specialist and Joan Martin, watershed specialist at LAWPRO, addressed the audience.
The workshop explored how to improve the ecological health and water quality of the lake, tourism, angling and fishing, heritage and more.
The organizer of the event was Carla McNeill, née Ward, a Mullingar woman and volunteer with the Preservation Association. When she returned to Mullingar three years ago, she wanted to get involved in the local community as a volunteer and, with a background in catchment management and an interest in water, the environment, river restoration and ecology, she was attracted to the association. .
Carla’s family, the Wards, hail from Gaybrook and her maternal grandfather, Gus Jones of Ginnell Terrace, Mullingar, was a keen fisherman and a well-known figure in the town.
Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner after the workshop, Carla said the Lough Ennell Trout Preservation Association recognizes the importance of working with businesses, agencies and communities to help plan the future protection of the catchment area of the lake. They want to improve spawning trout habitat and water quality.
“We were really encouraged by the turnout and happy to see the interest from so many sectors – farmers, Teagasc, Inland Fisheries Ireland, OPW, Westmeath County Council, National Parks and Wildlife Service, ICA as well as local communities, members of our own club and anglers,” said Carla.
She said the positive attitude of the various stakeholders and their willingness to work together to develop a watershed management plan was encouraging. There was a big show of hands from those who would be willing to come to a follow-up meeting to structure this, she added.
We need to strengthen what already exists. Lough Ennell is internationally recognized as a RAMSAR site, a Wetland of International Importance. It has been designated a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protected Area under the Birds and Habitats Directive, Carla explained.
Lough Ennell Trout Preservation Association chairman David O’Malley of Dominick Street, Mullingar told the meeting that Lough Ennell is one of only 13 wild trout fisheries in Europe and holds the record for the largest brown trout ever caught in Europe. – a 26lb 2oz fish landed in 1894 by William Mears.
The association was founded by David’s father, Mick O’Malley and local anglers who recognized the need to protect it, improve trout spawning and improve water quality. These objectives still drive the association today.
Joan Martin spoke about the Dysart stream project to investigate sources of pollution that are degrading bathing waters in Lilliput. She explained the positive outcome of farmers, Teagasc, County Council, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Lough Ennell Trout Preservation Association working together to put in place measures to improve water quality.
The result is that Lilliput has retained its status as a designated inland bathing area, of which there are only seven in the country, including three at Westmeath – Lilliput, The Cut on Lough Lene and Portnashangan on Lough Owel.
Prior to the workshop, Alan Lauder took the group around the shore of the lake pointing out various habitats and identifying bird songs. He shared his knowledge of the lake and stressed the importance of having a balanced ecosystem with insects feeding on vegetation and birds and fish feeding on insects.
During the workshop, Mr. Lauder spoke about his previous survey work and findings regarding water quality and wetland habitats. He talked about nutrient enrichment of water. If there is too much nitrogen or phosphorus in the lake, it creates an algae bloom. Another source of pollution is the waste water from the treatment plants, the large Mullingar station, but also the private ones around the lake, including the septic tanks.
The challenge is to find a solution to these problems and the workshop explored the possibilities. Finding a solution will improve the lake’s potential for tourism, the health and well-being of locals and visitors will be recognized and wildlife will be protected.
Swimmers want clean water, safe access and good information. Anglers want lots of fish, a healthy trout population, and peace and quiet. The lake needs no pollution, no litter, lots of varied habitat, good quality tributary habitat to support healthy, good quality fish populations, and minimal disturbance, established the workshop.
Local businesses will benefit from a well-managed watershed as it will provide an attractive amenity for people to visit and enjoy with spinoffs for all kinds of businesses in and around the city, it was maintained.
Ms. McNeill explained that there is already a lot going on, but the workshop was organized to bring all sectors together and give them a voice. This is a step towards a coordinated catchment management plan and although this is the start there is still much to do as Lough Ennell needs to be valued and we want to look after it now and in the future, a- she concluded.