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Major River Shannon Dredging Works Planned For Spring

Thursday, 15 December 2016

MAJOR dredging works are planned for the River Shannon during the Spring as part of efforts to address the age-old flooding problem.

The works will probably begin in March or April. A budget of over €400 million has been assigned to the project and the aim is to remove peat silt and vegetation at pinch points along the system.

Last week the Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group said it is developing a plan for a strategic maintenance programme to address the silt and vegetation problem.

The silt issue is a legacy problem arising from Bord na Móna's harvesting of the bogs. The runoff silt from the semistate body's peat harvesting made the Shannon's channel more narrow and more shallow. The problem was highlighted from at least the late 1990s and Bord na Móna responded by installing silt traps which prevented more silt from entering the river. 

There is also a significant problem with fallen trees and blocking vegetation. 

 For many years both of these problems have been highlighted, but they have never been adequately tackled. Some vegetation removal has taken place but on a relatively small scale. Practically no silt dredging has taken place. 

The IFA has cautiously welcomed the good news, pointing out that it's the most positive announcement about the Shannon flooding problem that has ever been made. Padraic Joyce of the IFA pointed out however that there could be an objection to the project from Brussels and he was worried that the work mightn't be permitted because the region is a Special Area of Conservation. 

 Deputy Kevin 'Boxer' Moran told the media that he hopes the maintenance work will begin in March or April, and he didn't expect any major delays.

 Last week OPW Minister Seán Canney welcomed the Flood Risk Group's announcement but he wouldn't put a date on the programme's start date because it will take time to get around any obstacles.

 The Flood Risk Group said the programme is 'essential to halt the deterioration of the river channel' and that it intends to bring together all of the relevant stakeholders to discuss, initiate and manage the development of this programme.

'This is very positive news,' commented Minister Canney, 'and comes on top of the decisions by the Group at its last meeting to trial the lowering of the lake levels in Lough Allen to help mitigate potential flood risk for this Winter and to evaluate the benefits from any short and medium term programme of localised dredging and any future piloting to remove some pinch points along the Shannon'.

Padraic Joyce said farmers and landowners want to see the work begin as soon as possible and progress made on the longstanding issues that have caused flooding. He called on the OPW to set out a clear timetable for the schedule of the works.

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