Members of the Welsh Assembly failed to bat an eyelid when they were told of Natural Resources Wales estimates that the tidal lagoon project for Penarth/Cardiff – and others like it – will destroy up to 25% of fish stocks every year.
It was a debate which cast a harsh spotlight on the extent of background knowledge – or lack of it – by AMs and signally failed to address growing public concern about such schemes in Penarth and in other coastal communities .
The NRW’s alarming statistics for decimated fish were buried in a rambling pro-Lagoon speech by Mike Hedges (Labour AM for Swansea East) who – like most the other AMs speaking in last night’s debate – was rapturously in favour of the Tidal Lagoon power generation.
Mr Hedges painstakingly explained to his less technically-minded colleagues that the banks of underwater turbines built into lagoon walls would be “bi-directional” and “we know we’ll get it four times a day, when the tide comes in, once when the tide goes out, once when the tide comes in again and once when the tide goes out again”. It was – he proclaimed -“not cutting edge”.
Nuclear plants he said would need “decommissioning and removing – but all a tidal lagoon does is leave you with a sea-defence – so even if you don’t like it, and it comes to an end, it gives you a sea defence – and with global warning we expect the sea levels to rise . It’s a win-win situation” he said – raising the prospect of a walled-off Penarth having to put up with a derelict Tidal Lagoon on its doorstep for centuries to come.
However Mr Hedges then appeared to concede it might not be exactly a “win-win situation” for the local fish population . An unresolved question was “How will we ensure the safe passage of fish either through the turbines or around them and gain a marine license from Natural Resources Wales?”.
Mr Hedges said that ” In December 2016, Natural Resources Wales revealed, on its best evidence, the proposed tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay could have a major added effect on migratory fish due to injury as they pass through the turbines. After a lengthy consultation, NRW estimated that up to 21 per cent of salmon and 25 per cent of sea trout, which are fish of a national importance, could be killed every year as they migrate to and from local rivers, mainly the Tawe, the Neath and the Afan.”
Garbling his delivery, Mr Hedges went on to reassure AMs by saying that the NRW’s estimates were “far higher” than “the numbers provided by Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay, which comes up with number roughly a tenth of that.”
Earlier Dafydd Melding (a Conservative AM for South Central which includes Penarth) spoke even more enthusiastically for the Tidal Lagoons schemes for Swansea Bay and for Penarth/Cardiff – and made no mention of the obliteration of sea views from the Penarth Pier and Esplanade by the huge lagoon walls – and none either of the decimation of local fish stocks.
Melding said the Welsh Conservative Party “fully supported” the “£1.3 billion potential project “[the Swansea Bay scheme – the forerunner of the Penarth/Cardiff Lagoon].
Of the Hendry Review itself [ the Government-commissioned Independent Review by Hendry into the viability of Tidal Lagoon schemes ] Melding appeared to find no fault with it. He said “Occasionally in life, you await a review, you know it’s important, and then it sort of reads as if you or your mother wrote it—it just has everything in it that you wish to hear—and that was pretty much how it turned out”
He said “If other projects follow in the most likely sites” [the first to follow Swansea would be Penarth/Cardiff] , we could see a £20 billion level of investment from the private sector, over 33,000 jobs, potentially, in construction and manufacturing for Wales, and an annual benefit in our GVA, if these projects go ahead, of £1.4 billion. It is remarkable. Wales was once the Kuwait of coal; we could now be the world leader in tidal energy. Let’s grasp the challenge.”