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Because of 'concern' for Mussels, £300 million pipeline to be dug through Lake District


Would you pay £300 million in response to a theoretical claim that freshwater mussels might suffer in a drought year? Well if you live in Cumbria you will soon have to make that payment. United Utilities are claiming that an EU directive to protect the freshwater mussels in the River Ehen means a massive pipeline has to be built across the Lakes from Thirlmere to supply all of West Cumbria's water. United Utilities want to build the UK's biggest integrated water supply pipeline through the heart of the Lake District.
The £300 million project, which may also alter the shorelines of both Crummock and Ennerdale lakes has been launched because of a perceived threat to the long term viability of around half a million freshwater mussels.
EnnerdaleUnited Utilities want to build a massive 25 mile long pipeline to take water from Thirlmere reservoir, past Keswick and Bassenthwaite and out to West Cumbria.
North West water consumers will have to pay for the £300 million project to dig a water pipeline through the Lake District. The aqueduct is proposed to take water from Thirlmere all the way past Keswick to West Cumbria, even though Ennerdale& Crummock have been used as water supply for several decades.
And the reason for this huge expenditure? Beds of freshwater mussels in the River Ehen, which flows from Ennerdale. The freshwater mussels in the River Ehen, have been coping for the past few millennia with varying river levels, but the Environment Agency has declared the mussels in need of protection and now decided one of the main water supplies for West Cumbria (Ennerdale Lake) should close to make the mussels happier.
As a consequence of the withdrawal of the Environment Agency licence to use Ennerdale Lake by 2025 United Utilities say they will have to lay a huge water pipeline all the way from Thirlmere to West Cumbria and build new treatment works near Cockermouth.
A relatively new treatment works at Ennerdale will also be closed. The government called for a public inquiry into the water company plans and at Workington on September 16 and 17 2014 appointed inspector, Mr Stephen Roscoe to consider the plans. He cross examined the various experts on the proposals. He then (December 10 2014) waved the plans through despite the various concerns.
The hearing heard that the water company plans to stop using Crummock and Ennerdale lakes as water supplies. This will mean the weirs on both lakes would be removed and this could affect the shoreline on both lakes. The hearing also heard one of the ecological experts admit that the predictions of whether the mussel beds would benefit from the proposed changes were "not an exact science." The only glimmer of common sense from the planning process was that plans for a water desalination plant at Workington to convert seawater to drinking water was judged too expensive!
As the final planning application was approved by Allerdale Council (November 2016), residents are slowly waking up to the absurdity.
One objector from Papcastle rightly informed Allerdale that "The EU directive does not require or intend action based on a small theoretical risk, it has been misinterpreted. The most that could be required by a proper interpretation of the EU directive is a revision to the requirements for minimum flow in the River Ehen during a drought order to match the directive wording about overriding human need, while retaining the abstraction licence for use in normal circumstances or emergencies."
In the real world the million strong mussel colony has coped for centuries with drought and flood down the River Ehen.
There are other freshwater mussel populations in Northern Ireland and Scotland and there are approximately 900 species worldwide.
Similar mussel beds occur in the River Irt, in Scotland and in the Sperrin mountains of Northern Ireland.
Detailed information on the United Utilities website.

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