I recently (18 October, 2016) attended the fifth meeting of the Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group in Government Buildings in Dublin. An Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny T.D. also addressed the Group which was chaired by the incoming Chairman of the Office of Public Works Mr. Maurice Buckley.
Speaking at the meeting, I said, ‘I am pleased to announce that a decision has been taken today by the Group to trial the lowering of the lake levels in Lough Allen to help mitigate potential flood risk for this Winter. From the analysis completed, this may have a small positive impact on the extent of certain flood events that might occur during a Winter.This is to be achieved through protocols to be agreed between the OPW, the ESB and Waterways Ireland with input from the relevant Local Authorities. The modelling and analysis completed shows that this action can only be done in specified conditions to avoid causing or exacerbating flooding downstream and this trial will need to be carefully monitored. The Group has also agreed to evaluate the benefits from any short and medium term programme of localised dredging and any future piloting to remove some pinch points along the Shannon.The Group will discuss both this evaluation and progression with the lake levels trial at its next meeting at the end of November.
‘The Co-ordination Working Group was established by the Government earlier this year to bring about the greatest level of co-ordination and co-operation between all of the statutory bodies involved in the management of the River Shannon. The Group is comprised of the Chief Executives of each of the State Agencies concerned with flood risk on the River Shannon. The Working Group has carried out a significant amount of work to date and had published its Shannon Flood Risk Work Programme for 2016 which contains an extensive range of actions and activities to assist in managing flood risk on the Shannon catchment. The Group held three Open Days on its work programme to discuss the role and work of the Group with the public, and met with the Irish Farmers Association to discuss and explore the approach being adopted to address their issues of concern. The Group is also developing guidance on the rights and responsibilities of non-statutory owners in relation to watercourses.
‘The decisions taken today by the Group demonstrate the continued commitment of all of the State agencies to work together in a co-ordinated way to explore all measures that may benefit the communities along the River Shannon. This Government is also continuing to ensure that measures to deal effectively with flooding through the development of the proactive CFRAM programme and plans, and the continued significant investment in flood defence capital schemes, will receive the highest priority and attention now and into the future.’