Erecting a footbridge from one side of the Bunbeg bridge to the other is going to be an ‘environmentally sensitive project' as freshwater pearl mussels grow on both sides an engineer has informed councillors at a meeting of the Glenties Municipal District.
Roads Engineer, Brendan McFadden said that getting a footbridge from one side of the river to the other, without going into the river, would be a complex issue due to the fact that the mussels were growing on both sides of it.
He said: “it’s an environmentally sensitive project and we are trying to work our way through the steps that might work.”
Information about the freshwater pearl mussel
The freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) is a large filter-feeding bivalve, which is found in near-pristine freshwater habitats. They have a long life and can survive to up to 140 years making them Ireland's longest living animals.
Freshwater pearl mussels are filter feeders, inhaling and expelling up to 50 liters of water per day through siphons, while retaining food particles.
Populations in slow decline
This filtering activity means that pearl mussels can help to maintain and improve water quality, where they are present in high numbers. European freshwater pearl mussel populations have declined by 90% over the past century. In Ireland, 27 freshwater pearl mussel populations are protected within Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).
Eight of these populations contain 80% of the total Irish freshwater pearl mussel population, and are known as the ‘Top 8 catchments'.
The ‘Top 8 catchments’ have some of the highest remaining numbers of freshwater pearl mussels in Ireland however these populations are also undergoing a slow decline, and face extinction unless action is taken.