Shannon–Erne Waterway - A New Waterway

A New Waterway

The canal lay moribund until the 1960s, when the growth in pleasure boating on the Shannon led enthusiasts to consider whether it could be restored. By 1969, Leitrim Council and the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland were asking for a full survey to be carried out. Here things lay until 1988, when an engineering and feasibility study, funded by the International Fund for Ireland, examined the issues surrounding reinstatement of the canal, which lay across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In June 1989, Charles Haughey, the Taoiseach, announced that the two governments had decided to adopt the proposal as a flagship cross-border project. In order for the project to take place, the powers of the original trustees, which had passed to the local authorities along its route, were transferred to the Office of Public Works. Work commenced in November 1990 and the canal was opened to traffic on 23 May 1994 on time and within the budget of £30m. It was essentially a new navigation along the line of the original waterway, which had never been properly completed in the first place.

The work involved major reconstruction of many of the structures, to make them suitable for modern cruisers. The eight locks between Lough Scur and Lough Erne were new concrete structures, and were widened to 19.8 feet (6 m), but were faced with stone from the original locks. The eight locks down to the Shannon were in better condition, and were repaired, so retain their original width of 16.5 feet (5 m). The locks are fully automatic, and are operated by the boat crews, using a smart card to activate the control panel, although they can only be used when waterways staff are working. Once restored, the canal was renamed, becoming the Shannon–Erne Waterway, to reflect its purpose of linking the two river systems, and it was opened by Dick Spring, the Irish Foreign Minister and Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the time. One unfortunate result of the scheme has been the invasion of the Erne system by the zebra mussel, a non-native species which travelled along the waterway from the Shannon.

Read more about this topic:  Shannon–Erne Waterway