The level of the River Shannon is currently more than six feet higher than it was prior to the last major flooding incident to hit the town in 2015/2016.
Minister for State at the Office of Public Works, Kevin “Boxer” Moran, says he and his department are working with relevant agencies to increase the flow of water through the system and reduce the current levels.
Speaking on Wednesday, Minister Moran said the ESB had increased the flow of water to 307 cubic metres per second between Parteen Weir and Ardnacrusha, and that this will be further increased to 357 cubic metres by Friday.
Minister Moran added that the opening and closing of gates along the river is a delicate balancing act at present.
“We had a meeting last Monday in Nenagh in relation to all aspects of the Shannon,” he said. “One question that came up was whether we can put more water through the system. Over the last week, we had to be aware of the area down river from Athlone, with high tides in Limerick last weekend, but they have passed now and we are able to let more water through. Nobody is more concerned than I am, but I am watching the levels and am in dialogue with all the relevant agencies.
“We are after experiencing the biggest rainfall in many a year, from around August right up to today. But there is a fine balancing act in terms of opening and closing gates and letting water through.”
Minister Moran added that he has been in contact with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency regarding when dredging might recommence on the river. He has been advised to apply for licences as soon as possible so that work can resume at the earliest opportunity next year.
Mayor Aengus O’Rourke (FF ) has moved to assure the public that the Emergency Inter-Agency Group is ready to respond should Athlone experience flooding. He said the council is keeping a close eye on developments, with daily updates on water levels and weather forecasts being provided by Met Éireann and the ESB.