Farm Ireland

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Farmers will open weirs along Shannon as flood anger grows

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Farmers along the Shannon have warned they will open weir gates on the river to relieve flood waters rather than allow their lands to be devastated again by summer floods.

Up to 100,000ac in counties Roscommon, Galway, Longford, Westmeath and Offaly have been hit by severe flooding since early June.

The floods have provoked a war of words between farmer representatives and Waterways Ireland and ESB regarding water levels on the river. Farmers have now warned they will take action to open weirs at Meelick, Co Galway, to prevent future flooding in the middle section of the Shannon between Lough Ree and Lough Derg if State agencies do not react quickly enough.

Farmers claim water levels in Lough Ree should have dropped once heavy rainfall for the country was forecast on Sunday, June 3.

This they argue would have provided greater storage capacity for the flood waters in the upper reaches of the Shannon and reduced the impact of the floods on farmers downstream.

Farmer representatives insist that Waterways Ireland was slow in reacting to the flood in early June.

"At 5.30am on Friday, June 8, I visited the weir in Meelick and two thirds of the weir was still closed, despite the fact that the flood was rising rapidly," said IFA representative Michael Silke.

Mr Silke said the weir boards, which hold back water, were not removed until Friday afternoon, by which time the river was in full flood. He said the State body had been warned of the heavy rains the previous Sunday and could have done more to limit the impact of the flood.

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But Waterways Ireland said in a statement it had done all it could. "When the water level rises in the river above that necessary for navigation purposes, Waterways Ireland opens the sluices, and at Meelick removes weir-boards, to facilitate throughput of water. When all the sluices are open and weir boards removed and the water is flowing freely over the tops of the weirs, Waterways Ireland has no further control on water levels," Waterways Ireland said.

Mr Silke said the reaction of State agencies to the latest flood showed that nobody was willing to take responsibility for managing water levels on the river.

"The most worrying aspect of this is how we are being totally let down again by politicians. After the floods of 2009 they promised the world and nothing was delivered. They're standing idly by and watching us being flooded each year," Mr Silke said. The IFA representative said farmers' patience with State organisations had run out and they would not allow another summer flood to destroy silage and hay crops and ruin land for the year.

"We can't ever let this happen again. We will have to deal with this issue ourselves and if that means opening weirs we'll do it," Mr Silke said.

The IFA representative said hundreds of farmers in the Shannon callows region had been left without silage or hay due to the floods.

Some areas are under four or five feet of water and the land would not now be any use until next year.

He said a winter feed crisis in the region was now almost inevitable.

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