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SPICOSA: Cork harbour, Ireland

Type of Entry: Case Study
Duration: 01/02/2007 - 31/01/2011

Cork Harbour, a large natural harbour of strategic importance, is situated on the south coast of Ireland. Cork Harbour, with a surface water body of 100km2, extends from the tidal influence of the River Lee to the narrow Harbour mouth. Cork Harbour is a large, sheltered, naturally deepwater harbour. Strong estuarine influences dominate the upper reaches of the Harbour in particular. The coastline is mixed, consisting of built infrastructure, shallow cliffs, intertidal mudflats, reedbeds, shingle and rocky foreshores, which are exposed by the tide (tidal range 3-4m). The bathymetry of the Harbour reflects the morphology of the coastline, with gentle slopes dropping to a depth of 28m near the mouth of the Harbour (11m in the channel which is maintained at that depth for navigation).

Riverine inputs originate from the Lee, the Owenacurra, the Glashboy and the Owenabue. Freshwater inputs from the Lee are controlled by the dam upstream at Iniscarra. Nutrient loading is primarily from non-point agricultural sources distributed throughout the catchment, but primarily in the upper reaches of the Lee estuary. Point source discharges have been reduced by the recent Cork main drainage scheme.

While contemporary use of large tracts of the Harbour is marked by concentrations of urban populations (most significantly, Cork City – population ~123,000) and widespread chemical and pharmaceutical industries, much of the coast remains unspoilt and characterised by rural agricultural land use or protected habitats. It’s sheltered environment and deep-water channels make Cork Harbour an ideal location for shipping and recreational boating activities. The physical geography of the Harbour on the south coast of Ireland provides a strategic location for the Port of Cork situated in close proximity to the main shipping line to Northern Europe. Tourism, marine heritage, fishing, and waste management are other key human activities associated with the harbour

Policy issues:  Dealing with remediation and redevelopment of contaminated coastal brownfield sites.Dealing with contamination from heavy metals leaching into the Harbour from the disused Irish Steel Plant and from the Irish Fertilisers Industry plant.Potential impacts of the Cork Main Drainage scheme on wading bird populations due to changing nutrient levels, recreational activities, and overall development of the Harbour. Issues of coastal flooding and erosion (especially flood impacts on Cork City). Identifying the recreational carrying capacity of the Harbour.

The potential impact of the Port of Cork Strategic Development Plan which, aims to rationalise existing port activities and make provision for additional port activities that need land reservations.

Policy changes:  The implementation of the Cork Main Drainage Scheme in response to the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.Cork County Development Plans – zonation of landuse for housing, industry, recreation, waste disposal (including incineration) and transport.

IDA (Industrial Development Authority) development policy.

SPICOSA Case Study - Cork Harbour (287.565 Bytes)
Contact: Valerie Cummins
National University of Ireland Cork
E-Mail: v.cummins@ucc.ie
Partner: Marine and Coastal Environment Group, Cardiff University (Dr. Hance Smith) ENVISION, UK (Dr. Jeremy Hills)