Local Independent Deputy, Denis Naughten, has voiced his concern with the lack of a co-ordinated approach between the ESB and Waterways Ireland regarding the management of water levels on the River Shannon.
“In July, as Waterways Ireland opened the gates at Meelick to reduce the rising waters, at far too slow a rate I must add, the ESB decided to open two additional sluice gates in Athlone, bringing it to six gates opened in Athlone. All six gates were left open for the next five days until the lands of farmers north of Meelick were flooded. For five days, there was no co-ordination between the ESB in Athlone and Waterways Ireland in Meelick. In between, the people within the Shannon Callows were flooded. That was the fundamental problem that led to the flooding that took place last July and during summer. It was because of a lack of co-ordination,” Deputy Naughten remarked.
He called for immediate action to give the Office of Public Works legal responsibility for the co-ordination of all operations to alleviate summer flooding and the scale of winter flooding along the River Shannon and its tributaries, but the former Minister also cautioned against the view that a single Shannon Authority would solve all problems, pointing out that it would take a decade before it would become operational.
He said that while in the role of Minister, he had worked with former Independent Ministers, Sean Canney and Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, and they were firmly of the view that such a Shannon Agency would pose complex legal challenges that would take at least five years to resolve, but only with determined political focus.
He went on to point out that he, along with Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran and his predecessor Sean Canney, were the only Government Ministers to successfully carry out maintenance on the River Shannon since the foundation of the State and that this work needed to be continued until Meelick Weir was removed altogether.
Concluding, Deputy Naughten noted that the immediate focus must be first, to properly manage the water levels on the lakes and at weirs, secondly, to remove the pinch points south of Athlone, which will ultimately lead within the next five years to the removal of Meelick Weir, thirdly, to remove the pinch points north of Lough Ree and in the fourth instance, to carry out an ongoing maintenance programme on the Shannon and its tributaries.