Seán Canney, T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Flood Relief outlined the range of additional measures being taken to address flood risk on the River Shannon at an event in Athlone Institute of Technology this evening, Monday 10th April.
Speaking at the Environ 2017 Conference, the Minister said, “The Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group met on 21 March, 2017 to agree its 2017 Work Programme which sets out actions and activities to manage flood risk for the Shannon catchment.” He said, “This extensive Work Programme demonstrates the ongoing work and co-ordination by all State bodies to jointly and proactively address flood risk on the Shannon.”
The Minister highlighted how the Work Programme will be continually growing during 2017, including from the major decision taken last December to develop a plan for a strategic maintenance programme on the River Shannon. The Group has established a sub-committee that is focused and actively working to develop the plan that will halt the deterioration of the river channel and complement the preferred measures for those areas at assessed risk identified through the Shannon CFRAM Study. The Minister was pleased to announce that the Group has now agreed to the delivery of targeted maintenance activities in specific locations that are being identified as feasible by the sub-committee.
The Minister said: “The sub-committee members have worked together to identify the scope of potential activities and proposals are now emerging for targeted activities to be carried out in a range of locations this year in accordance with the permitted seasonal windows for such activities. The recent targeted activity by Waterways Ireland and the OPW around Madden’s Island downstream of Athlone is a successful demonstration of this collaborative approach and both the Group and I would like to acknowledge the valuable contribution of the NPWS to ensure that the clearing of the trees was carried out appropriately to enhance the conveyance capacity of the channel.”
The Minister highlighted that as well as targeted measures over the coming months, the Group has agreed to some environmental and habitat surveys as a first necessary step to inform a long-term plan of maintenance. The Group will also identify any policy or legislative barriers to progressing maintenance works that can benefit flood risk management.
In addition to consideration of maintenance activity, the Group also agreed to review and continue the pilot lowering of the levels on Lough Allen during the Winter season for another year. The Minister acknowledged that the protocols agreed between the ESB, Waterways Ireland and the OPW were successfully implemented resulting in a lowering of the target Winter water level by 0.7 metres. The Group acknowledged that the impact of the trial on flooding has not been fully tested due to the relatively dry winter period up until late February this year.
The Minister, in referring to the impact of summer flooding on the agricultural community, announced that the Group has also endorsed the commencement of a specific project to identify viable flood risk reduction measures in the Shannon Callows. Building on initial assessments undertaken as part of the Shannon CFRAM study, the OPW are leading on the project, in conjunction with Waterways Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the NPWS. The project is to include more detailed assessment of the possible removal of identified constrictions or “pinch points” upstream of Meelick Weir.
The Minister went on to say, “I am delighted that the Group, which is chaired by the OPW, is progressing the plans for strategic maintenance works on the River Shannon. This will complement the Group’s Work Programme and the specific measures that are identified for the areas at significant risk in the Draft Shannon Flood Risk Management Plan. I welcome the twin-track approach being adopted which will see targeted maintenance activity being carried out while a proposal for a long-term strategic programme is being developed.”
The Minister added, “The activities of the Group play a valuable role in supporting the objectives of the Action Plan for Rural Development “Realising our Rural Potential”. In particular, the progresion of flood relief actions in the Shannon catchment identified in the Action Plan along with those identified for the country as a whole, will have a positive impact on rural communities who are living with flood risk.”