Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 21 April 2018

Farmers facing winter feed crisis as flooding wipes out silage crop

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A war of words has erupted between farmer representatives, local politicians and State bodies after another bout of summer flooding on the rivers Shannon and Suck left thousands of farmers facing crippling losses.

IFA representative Michael Silke said that farmers on either side of the Shannon north of Lough Derg were experiencing the worst flooding since 2009.

Mr Silke claimed that up to 100,000ac of the Shannon callows in counties Westmeath, Roscommon, Offaly, Galway and Longford had been flooded since the middle of June.

He claimed farmers along the Suck in Roscommon and Galway were similarly affected.

The IFA man said that farmers were in a disastrous situation after silage and hay crops were lost to floods.

"It will take six weeks for this land to dry out even if the floods were to recede in the next week. At that stage it will be too late to do anything for the rest of the year," Mr Silke said.

He said a "horrifying" situation was developing on affected farms. Thousands of farmers had been left without any winter fodder, he pointed out.

While most farmers managed to move their animals to higher ground, many were struggling to keep stock fed.

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Mr Silke hit out at the record of successive governments in controlling flooding in the Shannon Basin, blaming the decision to raise water levels in Lough Ree to facilitate boating as a major contributory factor in the flooding.

The authorities had a cavalier attitude to flooding and did not seem to worry if houses and towns were not affected, Mr Silke claimed.

He also accused the ESB and Waterways Ireland of maintaining high water levels in the Shannon in order to facilitate boating and power generation.

He said this meant there was no spare capacity in the river at times of spectacularly high rainfall, like in the past month.

"The politicians are doing absolutely nothing. ESB and Waterways Ireland can raise water levels without any regard for the livelihoods of farmers along the river," said Mr Silke.

He said landowners were not looking for the drainage of the Shannon but added they were looking for a decent management plan to be implemented for the river that would limit summer flooding.

Destroying

"We accept winter floods, that's part and parcel of farming this land but we are increasingly being hit with summer floods that are destroying livelihoods," he added.

Roscommon TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan said the solution to flooding was to drop weir levels at Athlone and to start dredging the Shannon of the silt built up by the ESB and Bord na Móna.

However, a statement from ESB pointed out that the water level on Lough Ree at the start of June was at the lower end of its operation range for the time of year.

The ESB blamed flooding in the callows on the large amount of rain that fell in June, over three times the monthly average in parts of the middle Shannon, and to the fact that the natural topography of this area was such that it drained very slowly.

"ESB uses a Met Eireann five-day forecast to predict the three Shannon lake levels and provides this information twice a week to local authorities, Waterways Ireland, the OPW and the IFA. These predictions were provided as usual in early June this year," the ESB stated.

However, Mr Silke said his land was already flooded by the time he got the ESB flood warning.

INVESTIGATION

Meanwhile, Waterways Ireland's claimed that previous investigations undertaken by independent consultants in relation to its operation of the sluice barrages and weir-boards on the Shannon, found that no fault has ever been highlighted with their operating procedures.

The OPW said it had no direct operational responsibility with regard to reviewing water levels on the Shannon.

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