#Shannon - Minister of State for Flood Relief Seán Canney outlined a range of additional measures being taken to address flood risk on the River Shannon at the recent Environ 2017 conference in Athlone.
Speaking at the event in AIT last Monday (10 April), Minister Canney made reference to the most recent meeting of the Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group on 21 March, which set out its actions manage flood risk for the Shannon catchment.
“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,” he said.
The work programme follows from the major decision taken last December to develop a plan for a strategic maintenance programme on the River Shannon, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.
The working group established a sub-committee 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.
Minister Canney announced that the working group has now agreed to the delivery of targeted maintenance in specific locations that are being identified as feasible by the sub-committee.
“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,” he said, “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 added that the working 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.
Additionally, the working group has agreed to review and continue the pilot lowering of the levels on Lough Allen during the winter season for another year.
Minister Canney said the protocols agreed between the ESB, Waterways Ireland and the Office of Public Works (OPW) were successfully implemented resulting in a lowering of the target winter water level by 0.7 metres.
However, working 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.
Regarding the impact of summer flooding on the agricultural community, the minister said the working group has endorsed 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 is leading on the project in conjunction with Waterways Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). This project will include more detailed assessment of the possible removal of identified constrictions or ‘pinch points’ upstream of Meelick Weir.
“I am delighted that the group, which is chaired by the OPW, is progressing the plans for strategic maintenance works on the River Shannon,” said Minister Canney. “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 progression 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.”