Lough level to be lowered in bid to stop river flooding
Water levels on the Shannon will be lowered as the Government looks to prevent a repeat of last winter's catastrophic floods.
Proposals to dredge pinch points on the river are also being examined to reduce the risk of bad weather and rising waters hitting families and businesses in the region.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) has confirmed that the levels of Lough Allen, Co Leitrim, will be lowered as part of an effort to ease a build-up of water at pressure points downstream. Local residents and community groups have long called for the river to be cleaned and dredged.
They say it will allow levels in the Shannon to drop and prevent the river bursting its banks in places such as Athlone, Springfield, Clonlara and Castleconnell - areas that spent weeks engulfed in water earlier this year.
These proposals are now being seriously considered by a working group established to manage the state agency's involvement in maintaining the river.
However, those in areas worst affected last winter -where millions of euros worth of damage was caused to homes and businesses - said any planned intervention was already too late for this winter.
Patrick Mason, from Springfield, Co Clare, was one of those whose lives were turned upside down by last year's floods. For six weeks his home was engulfed in water more than four feet deep which he had to wade through every morning to get to work.
Army and civil defence personnel had to use boats on the flooded roads to deliver food and supplies to the area.
"The land here is soaked already this year so this work should have happened months ago," said Mr Mason.
"This year could well be worse if the rain is bad.
"Dredging will help but it needs to be done along the whole river. It is full of mud and rubbish."
The OPW manages government policy on flood risk. It said a number of major schemes were being designed or built to address flood risk in the Shannon region.
A working group - made up of the ESB, Waterways Ireland, Bord na Mona, Inland Fisheries Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Environment Protection Agency, OPW and local authorities - has held discussions on addressing future flood risks.
It has decided to trial the lowering of the lake levels in Lough Allen and other proposals are to be brought to cabinet before the end of November.
A spokesperson for the OPW said the working group had also agreed to study the benefits from any short and medium-term programme of localised dredging.