Drainage plans for Kilwaughter Lake making waves locally

Plans for Kilwaughter’s famous landmark lake, which was once an integral part of the Agnew castle estate near Larne, have led to anger among local people.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 12:50 pm

Kilwaughter Minerals Ltd, which owns one of the banks of the lake, says that it has lowered the water level in accordance with recommendations from the Department for Infrastructure

But local residents claim that the ultimate aim is not just to lower the water level but to totally drain the lake.

The two sides cannot even agree what to call the landscape feature, familiar to generations of Kilwaughter residents. Residents are referring to it as a “lake”, but Kilwaughter Minerals Ltd is referring to it as a “pond”.

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Kilwaughter Lake has been a feature of the area for at least 150 years says one resident.

One local man, William Harvey, who holds water rights, has accused the Department of turning a blind eye to the environmental impact of blasting at the limeworks and whether that could have impacted on the stability of the bank in question.

Another local resident, his son-in-law Peter Graham, who has lived at the Kilwaughter Gate lodge for 25 years, says he was told by a company official that they believed that the bank was ready to fail.

“I spoke with management from Kilwaughter lime works and their stance on this bank was that it is ready for failure and that as it was of no commercial value to the company the best option for them was to drain the lake to avoid flood risk.

Mr Graham says that the lake, which is 14 feet wide in places, is home to a variety of wildlife including swans, otters, ducks and herons and that deciding to drain the lake in the middle of a breeding season adds to the injury of what is going on.

Lowering of water levels at the location is causing residents concern.

He says the lake, which has been there for at least 150 years, is home to a breeding pair of swans and that last year there were 16 signets raised there.

He has hit out at the company, accusing it of having no thought for the local environment.

“The big company outlook of ‘We make no money from this lake so let’s drain it’ is a real fear from the wider Kilwaughter community,” Peter says. The local man claimed the company cut a sluice gate down and left it held open to aid draining in recent weeks.

William Harvey has questioned the reliability of the report which appears to have prompted the situation.

He has questioned whether the Department for Infrastructure, Rivers and the consultancy involved in the report should be involved in what he believes is a private land owner matter.

“They seem to be making in my opinion an engineering case for a private body or company,” he said, adding that he did not believe that the Water Reservoir Legalisation applied to a small and private ornamental fishing lake.

“The Department for Infrastructure, Rivers and the consultancy who provided the report talk in very general level engineering phraseology and in my opinion by their own admission indicate a shortfall in numerical assessment data. I conclude from this that their report should be taken as read but not necessarily as a substantive and objective engineering assessment,” he said.

However, the Kilwaughter Minerals Ltd Company has challenged the interpretation that the lake does not fall within the ambit of the relevant legislation.

In a statement responding to the claims about the draining of the lake, the company said “There are several stakeholders who part own and manage the Kilwaughter Pond which is a controlled reservoir under the Reservoirs Act (Northern Ireland) 2015. Kilwaughter Minerals Limited own one bank of the Kilwaughter pond”

“The Department for Infrastructure Rivers completed a survey of the pond in the interest of public safety. The Reservoirs Engineer concluded the pond must lower its level of water to prevent flooding and remain safe. Kilwaughter Minerals Limited need to respect and follow the recommendations made by the Reservoirs Engineer which can be enforced under the Drainage (Northern Ireland ) Order 1973 to prevent injury to land,” the statement concluded.

Responding to the Larne Times, the DfI confirmed the company is acting in accordance with recommendations.

A spokesperson for the department said: “Kilwaughter Minerals Limited are the reservoir manager for Kilwaughter Pond. In common with other reservoir managers they have a responsibility to ensure the safe condition of their reservoir in line with their common law responsibilities. The company is acting in accordance with the recommendations made by a specialist reservoir engineer.”

Asked if there was a safety issue at the lake and if the department was confident the legislation applies in this case, the spokesperson said: “Kilwaughter Lake is a controlled reservoir and recommendations have been made by a specialist reservoir engineer.

“Kilwaughter Lake is a controlled reservoir and as such falls under the legislative provision envisaged in the Reservoirs Act. The Department has engaged with those responsible for the safety of the reservoir and encouraged them to manage their reservoir responsibly.”

Pressed if it could offer reassurance over the future of the lake, the DfI added: “The management of the reservoir is a matter for the current owners of the lands that comprises the reservoir.”

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