New Shannon group formed to tackle flooding problem

Derek Fanning

Reporter:

Derek Fanning

The River Shannon has been plagued with flooding problems for the last decade

The River Shannon has been plagued with flooding problems for the last decade.

A new group has been formed to tackle the recurrent flooding problem along the Shannon basin.

The group is called Save Our Shannon Organisation and it is calling on the TDs and councillors who attended the packed flooding meetings last February to live up to the promises they made during those meetings.

PRO Liam Broderick told the Tribune that the group was previously known as the Mid Shannon Flood Relief Group but it was felt that there is such a groundswell of support for the group's work that a change of name is now necessary.

He said the reason the name isn't Save Our Shannon is because such a group already exists and its purpose is to save Shannon Airport.

Liam said a lot of people in the Shannon region are very concerned about the recurrent flooding issue and it's time now for everybody to really grab the bull by the horns. “We have to live with Covid-19 and not let it hold us back. We can't sit back and do nothing because who knows what the winter will bring? It could bring more storms, more terrible weather, and more destructive flooding.”

Save Our Shannon Organisation is being chaired by veteran Shannon flooding campaigner Michael Silke. They have sent a letter to all TDs and County Councillors asking for their help to alleviate the flooding problem. “We are also asking them,” said Liam, “to live up to the promises they made last February at meetings in Esker, Banagher and in Athlone, when we had huge flooding.”

“Again for the second time in two years,” the group's letter begins, “flooding has come to the Shannon Callows in Summer time. The flood waters have spread over the fields used by farmers for hay and silage and for grazing their animals. The rising flood has destroyed people’s livelihood and is causing damage to the habitats of wild life, particularly to various varieties of wading birds that nest in the Callows. Summer flooding has already driven the Corncrake from our area and now the Curlew is under threat.”

They say that residents, business owners and farmers in the vicinity of the Callows are once again looking with trepidation at the rising waters of the country's longest river. “As happened last year the land is now totally saturated and if more storms follow Ellen and Francis in the coming months then a major winter flood is inevitable – just like the one we had during February 2020.” Homes, farm buildings, roads and bridges, they say, will be flooded again; and access to people's homes by road will be blocked and many man-made structures such as bridges, weirs, flood defences and even Ardnacrusha will come under pressure.

They point out that the people who live beside the Shannon from Athlone to Meelick clearly understand why this flooding is constantly happening. “Over the past number of years their views have been continuously explained by the members of the Mid Shannon Flood Relief Group and once again these views are set out in this letter.”

They say that constant flooding is being caused in the Shannon Callows because:

The river is choked with silt, silt islands, overhanging trees, weeds and vegetation. Constrictions or pinch points have slowed the flow of the river and caused flood waters to spread far and wide over the land adjoining the river.
Little or no maintenance of the river has been organised by the State over the past one hundred years.
Government agencies have not implemented a co-ordinated plan to carry out maintenance of the river.
No Single Authority is in charge of the various agencies involved with the Shannon – an Authority with a plan and power to implement it.
The ESB and Waterways Ireland do not seem to have a co-ordinated plan to release water at sluices/weirs in Lough Allen, Athlone, Meelick and Parteen Villa in time to lower levels of water in the Shannon ahead of predicted torrential rain. If they do, this plan has not been published and made available to the public.
Save Our Shannon Organisation points out that we are now living in a period of climate change which means rising temperatures, drought conditions at times and excess rain at other times. There has been major flooding along the Shannon from Carrick-on-Shannon to Limerick in November/December 2009, in December 2015/January 2016 and in February 2020. Various Taoisigh and Ministers have come to visit these flooded areas and have promised to do their utmost to relieve the hardship endured by people living in the vicinity of the river. “To date,” said Liam, “these promises have not stopped the flooding because no action has been taken to remove the barriers (constrictions) to the flow of the water in the main channel of the river. Yes, work has been done to prevent flooding in various towns along the river by erecting barriers, flood defences,and sump holes for pumps to impel flood waters back into the main channel. However, only one tiny pinch point has been removed and that was not in the main channel.

“Once again, the people living in the vicinity of the Shannon, especially those in the Shannon Callows are wondering what the coming Winter will bring. How are the lives of people and families going to be affected? The lives of those living in Golden Island, Carrickobrien and Clonbonny near Athlone Co. Weastmeath;  in Clonown and Barrymore, Co. Roscommon;  in Clonmacnois, Shannonbridge and Shannon Harbour, where the Suck and the Brosna will bring extra flood waters into the Shannon; in Clonfert, Meelick, Banagher and Lusmagh where flood waters are often over a mile in width; in Springfield, Cloonlara, Co. Clare when the ESB have to release excess water from Lough Derg over Parteen Villa: in Limerick when the high tides come up against excess flood water in the Shannon? Will the various bridges, weirs and the walls of Ardnacrusha be under pressure from huge floods? Will cracks appear in any of these structures? Will the bridge in Portumna be closed as it was in 2016 due to fears it would fall? Are there sensors on our bridges and at Ardnacrusha to warn us of danger? Is there a contingency plan for fallen bridges or arches and does this plan include warning people of such dangers? We need to adjust our thinking, to prepare for the consequences of Climate Change, to get ready for the damage that excess water in the Shannon is doing and will do. “

After the floods of 2009 promises were made that remedial works would be carried out. CFRAMS was set up to examine the causes and make recommendations on flooding relief measures. These recommendations pertain mainly to urban areas but contain very few proposals, if any, for improving the conveyancing of water in the Shannon. After the floods of December 15/January 16 more promises to relieve flooding were made by Government Ministers.

During the meetings in Esker and Athlone in February the politicians present made commitments to bring about the following:

The creation of a Single Authority with total control of the management, maintenance and navigation levels of the Shannon.
The removal of pinch points in the river and so aid the flow of water in times of flooding. 
“It is now time for all politicians in the Dail,” the letter says in its concluding paragraph, “for the Taoiseach and his Ministers in the Coalition Government to act immediately and implement plans for preventing flooding in the Shannon. It is now time for our local politicians, our TDs and County Councillors in Leitrim, Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Offaly, Galway, Tipperary and Clare to act on our behalf, to represent our views, to provide us with answers and to live up to their continuous promises.  We are calling on you to stand up for us and represent us now in our time of need. The alternative is very, very bleak indeed.”