Major project to dredge the River Lagan underway

Date published: 17 October 2019

Thousands of tonnes of silt that currently lies on the bed of the River Lagan will be dredged in a major project to maintain and enhance the river’s water quality and unique eco-system.

The £3.3m investment by the Department for Communities, which manages the River Lagan, will see the river being dredged for the first time since 2011.

The Department has appointed local firm ABCO Marine Limited to deliver the project which is due to be completed by March 2020. The work will be carried out in a phased manner and as sections from Stranmillis Weir to Lagan Weir are completed they will be returned to river users for recreational use.

Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities, Tracy Meharg said: “The River Lagan Dredging Project is a significant strategic investment by the Department to further strengthen the continued regeneration of Belfast. The investment is essential in ensuring its future as an integral part of Belfast City Centre’s offering to residents, businesses and visitors alike.

“The River Lagan area is a key amenity in the City Centre and is extensively used for walking, cycling and rowing.  Maintaining navigation along the River will allow its continued use as a recreational waterway and will help improve water quality.”

The work involves thousands of tonnes of silt being removed from the bed of the River Lagan under a marine licence from Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). DAERA also licence the disposal of the material to an approved location at sea.

River Manager, Peter Gallagher said: “The silt is largely organic material and removing it will help the impounded River Lagan’s bespoke aeration system to function more efficiently through a deeper water column in order to combat fresh and saline water stratification which can be problematic within the impoundment. Water quality has improved noticeably in recent years thanks to NI Water infrastructure improvements and we hope this project will build on that good work and help us to continue to improve the river corridor’s ecology. As well as improving the habitat for wildlife a healthy river environment will help promote the development of economic infrastructure and encourage business growth. The works will also reduce flooding risk by improving the drainage capacity of the river and the back drainage systems which flow into it.”

The River will be initially closed to navigation for a period of approximately 6 weeks for safety reasons at the start of the contract. However, as sections of the dredging works are completed these will be handed back to the rivers users.

John McGill, Director, ABCO Marine Limited said: “ABCO Marine is delighted to be awarded the River Lagan Dredging Project for the Department for Communities. We are very aware of the importance of the River Lagan to both the river users and key stakeholders. ABCO’s primary objective will be to deliver the works safely, with minimising the impact on river users and reducing the impact on the environment.”

More detail and updates on the project are available at Communities NI


Notes to editors: 

  1. The contract will involve 55,000m3 of silt being removed by diggers mounted on floating pontoons which will fill motorised barges that will navigate the 4.8km section of river to the Lagan Weir where the material will be transferred to a large seagoing barge for disposal at an approved disposal location at sea.
  2. Media enquiries to DfC Press Office on 028 9082 3516 or email: Press Office  Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 90378110.
  3. Follow us on Twitter- @CommunitiesNI


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