Continuing their quest for a cohesive and co-ordinated approach towards management of the River Shannon as flood waters detrimentally impact upon the lives of communities dwelling in close proximity to the waterway, representatives from the Save Our Shannon organisation are awaiting meeting confirmation with Minister of State with responsibility for OPW, Patrick O’Donovan, to enable discussion of pertinent issues relevant to their cause.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser, a representative for the organisation stated that a request for a meeting with the Minister of State was issued in July but, to date, no meeting, has been confirmed to proceed.
“The area to which we are drawing attention is from Athlone to Meelick primarily but the problem extends to the whole Shannon River area. In that regard, we have been requested a meeting with the OPW Minister of State, but as of yet, we have not been afforded one. We are aware of the travel conditions associated with Covid-19 but we know there are exceptions made for different working conditions,” the representative remarked.
Seeking clarification and expressing vast concerns with regard to numerous flood impact issues, the representative noted that a recent email had been forwarded to the Minister for his deliberation with a response not forthcoming.
“There have been three major floods on the River Shannon in the past eleven years, the most recent being in February 2020. These major floods can be benchmarked against the flood of 1954, which was always considered to be the highest flood recorded in the previous two centuries.
“In 2009 the flood was two feet higher than the 1954 level. Government spokespersons told us it was a once in a hundred years event. Yet over the next six years we failed to see any flood relief measures in our Shannon Callows area.
“In 2015/16 the flood level was over six inches higher than that of 2009. The CFRAMS Programme was moving very slowly in relation to flood relief. It brought flood defences to various urban areas along the river and to Athlone in 2019/20. In the Shannon Callows one tiny pinch point was removed in 2018 and a few trees were cut since 2009.
“In February 2020 another major flooding event occurred which was higher than 1954 and almost level with 2009. To date, this year, we have witnessed no flood relief measures.
“During this last year we had the worst summer floods of all time caused primarily by the total failure to remove pinchpoints and the glaring mismanagement by the ESB and Waterways Ireland in releasing water at the sluices/weirs in Athlone and Meelick. This was highlighted by Deputy Denis Naughten in the Dáil in recent times.
Rapidly Rising Flood Levels
“We are experiencing rapidly rising flood levels once again this winter. Our organisation have been constantly calling for the lowering of water levels in the three major lakes in the Shannon so that the constant rainfall will have storage capacity. This is not happening.
“The ESB control the flow of water in Ardnacrusha and Parteen at the bottom of Lough Derg. On October 22, the combined amount of water being discharged in Ardnacrusha and Parteen was 301 cubic metres per second (at Parteen it was 10 cu. metres per/sec ). At that time this discharge could have been much higher and Lough Derg could now have the capacity to cater for continuous rainfall. The amount of water being discharged has risen slowly over the past few weeks and on November 16 the combined total was 436 cubic m/p/s (at Parteen it was 95 cubic m/p/s ).
“Why does it take so long for the ESB to increase the amount of water it discharges in Ardnacrusha/Parteen when we are facing weather alerts and yellow rain warnings?
“At the height of the flood in early 2020, 772 cubic metres per second were being released in Ardnacrusha/Parteen (at Parteen it was 407 cubic m/p/s ) and of course Springfield and Clonlara was flooded. However, on February 21, when 616 cubic m/p/s (Ardnacrusha 374 and Parteen 242 ) was released the houses in Springfield/Clonlara were not flooded although water levels were rising.
“Here we are approaching the end of November and 600 cubic metres per second is not yet being released. We have had consistent rainfall, a yellow rain alert and more rainfall promised.
Land Under Serious Threat
“We, the residents of the Shannon Callows, have already witnessed grazing land, farmyards, access roads flooded and private dwelling houses again under serious threat. Government inaction on the removal of pinchpoints is preventing the flood waters from getting away. Failure to release water in Ardnacrusha/Parteen in a timely manner is also unquestioningly compounding this issue.
“When will the maximum discharge of water at Ardnacrusha/Parteen be reached? By maximum we are referring to the amount that can safely be released without flooding Springfield/Clonlara. We contend this should be about 600 cubic metres? Furthermore, what plans did the OPW have in place to prevent flooding in the Shannon Callows this year?
“Climate change is here and we received warning of same 11 years ago. The past four recent Governments have consistently assured us during their tenure that flood events of the nature that we have been consistently experiencing in the Shannon Callows will be a thing of the past, but the residents/farmers/business people have seen little or no action being taken to alleviate flooding.
“It is the responsibility of all TDs to ensure that flooding in the Shannon Callows is alleviated and that responsibility falls particularly on those in the Fine Gael party and their partners in Government who have failed miserably this past nine years to address this cruel and inhuman reality.”