Councillor Kevin “Boxer” Moran raised concerns at this week’s Athlone Municipal District meeting regarding the current level of the river Shannon.
After the major flooding that hit the town in 2009, Cllr Moran says many residents have already communicated their concerns to him regarding the possibility of the scenario repeating itself this year.
“In 2009 we had a major flooding in Athlone,” he said. “If you take the summer we are after having, the land is saturated in water to the extent that it is not able to soak up any more. We have a large rainfall promised over the course of this weekend. Last year all the sluice gates were open in Athlone to bring down the water level of the weir wall upstream.
“That was to control the water for the winter flooding, and it was very successful. This summer there have only been four or five flood gates open and the water level remains high for this time of year. I know we are after having a dry week this week, but we would really want a month of dry weather to bring the water down to a level acceptable for Athlone and the surrounding areas.”
Cllr Moran referenced three particular areas of concern in the town: “Parnell Square, Deerpark, and Brick Island are susceptible to flooding. I had four phone calls on Saturday and two on Sunday morning from people concerned about the situation. If you are someone living in a house that was flooded in 2009, when you were forced to live upstairs for four or five weeks, it is an awful worry on those people that such a thing will happen again. The fear of God is in them.”
Cllr Moran called on the director of services to contact the ESB to ask for clarity regarding any plans they might have in place to deal with the situation should it arise: “The director said he has confidence in the ESB; I too have confidence in the ESB, but I think that for some strange reason they took their eye off the ball this year. Now they can’t open the gates, so I am concerned.
“I don’t want to send alarm bells to the people of Athlone, but I am a person on the water every weekend, I go fishing every Sunday, and I know that the levels of the Shannon are too high. I hope I am wrong and that they will drop by the end of September, but there is heavy rain promised this weekend and then next week we are back to windy and rainy conditions.
“If the Shannon reaches a certain level it is the wind that drives the water back upstream to Athlone from Clonmacnoise, and if that happens we have a problem on our hands. From Lough Allen down to Lough Ree we have a foot of a fall. It takes water that hits the Shannon seven days to reach Athlone.
“At the moment, due to the land being so wet, the water is hitting the land and going straight into the Shannon, so it is rising rapidly. So that rings alarm bells with me. If we do get the downpours, are we ready and what is in place? The only people that can answer or solve that are the ESB.”