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Minister Canney outlines progress on flood relief works in the Shannon catchment area

Published: 6th October 2016

Minister of State for the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Flood Relief, Seán Canney has today outlined progress on flood relief works in the Shannon catchment area.

Given the flooding experienced in Athlone during last winter it has been decided to advance the works in this town. The OPW and Westmeath County Council are working together on the development of a flood relief scheme for the town. The OPW has agreed to a request from the Council to fund the development and implementation of the scheme for Athlone based on the options identified in the Shannon CFRAM report.

The OPW has also agreed to fund some advance interim remedial works in the town at Canal Walk and Griffith Street and these works will be completed this year. This is in conjunction with works being carried out by Westmeath County Council in enhancing their underground pipe work and drainage systems and installation of non-return valves.

This is another example of the OPW and local authorities working effectively in partnership to address serious flooding problems and demonstrates the shared commitment of State bodies to deal pro-actively with managing flooding in a high risk area.

The cost of this scheme is estimated to be approximately €6 million and it is anticipated that work will commence in mid-2017, in advance of the CFRAM process being concluded in order to fast-track the protection of people in their homes. When completed this project will provide protection to approximately 250 homes. 

Following a Government decision in January 2016, the Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group was established to enhance on-going co-operation across all of the State agencies involved with the River Shannon, including ESB, Waterways Ireland, Bord na Móna, Inland Fisheries Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, OPW and the relevant local authorities.

The Group has met on four occasions to date and has:
Conducted an audit of the roles and responsibilities of State Agency organisations
Published its Shannon Flood Risk Work Programme for 2016 which sets out co-ordinated actions and activities for the Shannon catchment, see opw.ie
Engaged in a programme of public consultation and has held a series of open days on its work programme.

Considered in co-operation with the Attorney General’s Office the development of appropriate guidance that will set out more clearly the rights and responsibilities of non-statutory bodies in relation to watercourses.
The Shannon Group is meeting again on 18th October. The meeting will start the discussion by the Group on the measures for the 66 areas along the Shannon identified in the CFRAM process.
Draft Flood Risk Management Plans, containing specific measures that can address in a comprehensive and sustainable way the significant flood risks identified in the Shannon River Basin District have been published for consultation. The consultation period has run for 10 weeks up to Friday 23 September, 2016, with submissions from councils due by the 17th October.

Other items for discussion by the Group to determine flood relief measures on the Shannon include:
A proposal for a pilot scheme on Lough Allen to help manage the risk from flooding.
Update on the pilot scheme on Lough Ree (ESB and Waterways Ireland) underway since 2013 that aims to help alleviate seasonal flooding in the Shannon Callows

Consideration of any additional water level management issues on Lough Derg
Use of Bord na Móna cut-over bogs for flood storage during winter months
The removal of pinch points identified in CFRAM, which appear to be obstructions to water flow and flood relief upstream of Meelick Weir.
The removal or adaption of Meelick Weir including the installation of additional flood gates to facilitate flood relief.

The problem with flooding on the Shannon has been a major issue for the last two hundred years. All of the analysis and reports in that time confirm that the river-wide catchment approach and improved co-ordination by all State Agencies involved is the correct approach. However, I recognise that there have been calls from various groups for the establishment of a single authority for the Shannon. It is my intention to discuss this further with all stakeholders.

In the months since this Government took office, I have tried to identify all of the challenges with flood relief on the Shannon. It is complex and involves a large number of agencies and there are also serious environmental constraints. However, we will continue to work to find solutions to the problems presented.

The over-riding aim of all of this is the protection of communities, both urban and rural.

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