Commitment to remove 18 Shannon "pinchpoints"

Thursday, 30 November 2017

A MAJOR announcement was made by Kevin Boxer Moran, Minister for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, at the 2nd annual Irish National Flood Forum Conference in Athlone on Saturday.

The Minister told the audience that the Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group which was established by the Government to manage flood risk on the Shannon "is proving to be a very effective forum for positive engagement and action on the Shannon Catchment."

He said that because of the Group's work in recent months, Waterways Ireland and the OPW are now progressing a project for the removal of 18 pinchpoints between Athlone and Meelick on the Shannon with the aim of improving the river's conveyance capacity.

He said that when carried out this will be a major step forward for farming, for tourism and for habitats, particularly in relation to nesting birds and the severely-threatened curlew.

For the first time in many years, targeted maintenance works were undertaken earlier this year, occurring at Madden s Island and, at Portavolla, Banagher.

"I recently turned the sod," commented the Minister, "on a minor works scheme costing 120,000 which will be completed early in 2018. Further maintenance works will be carried out on the Shannon pinch points in 2018 when the next environmental window for the works will allow. The initial estimate for this targeted maintenance work is some 6 million over a five-year period and is subject to approval through the planning process .

The Minister also provided an update on some of the work being carried out across a wide area to address flooding problems. He said there is considerable progress being made in advancing flood relief works across the country.

He referred to the Cork Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme, welcoming the progress being made on this 140 million Scheme, the largest ever undertaken in Ireland and providing protection to over 2,100 properties. It is expected that the first phase of the Scheme will be submitted for planning by Cork City Council shortly as part of an integrated Public Realm project for the Morrison s Island area of the City. "This will provide protection for the City against tidal flooding and it is hoped construction works will commence in 2018."

He added that a contract for the Clonakilty Flood Relief Scheme is expected to be placed shortly which will provide protection to some 300 properties.

In relation to projects in Donegal, the Minister welcomed the progress being made in Raphoe where the OPW, working in conjunction with Donegal County Council, is progressing a scheme to provide protection to over 200 properties. In Burnfoot, work is ongoing to review potential flood relief measures, taking into account the August floods.

Under the OPW s Minor Works and Coastal Protection Scheme, 4.5 million was approved for 139 projects from 2016 to October, 2017. OPW in conjunction with Offaly County Council has provided flood protection works to protect some 35 homes in Portavolla and works are expected to be completed in Spring 2018.

I also recently turned the sod," the Minister continued, "on the first stage of the 6 million Athlone Flood Alleviation Scheme which will bring much needed protection to some 250 homes. In Limerick, the recently completed 2.8 million Foynes Tidal Flood Relief Scheme is protecting 188 properties, and progress is being made on the 1st phase of the Limerick City Flood Relief Scheme at King s Island.

He assured the delegates at the Conference of his own personal commitment and that of the Government to supporting communities in their endeavours and initiative to tackle flooding problems in their areas.

This week again identified the hardship that occurs in communities and highlights the important role that the Irish National Flood Forum has in assisting communities affected by flooding. Since taking office just over four months ago I have worked tirelessly in accelerating the planning and delivery of flood relief solutions. We are seeing major progress being achieved and I will continue with my endeavours to support communities in addressing the problem of flooding nationally.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte welcomed the Minister's statement. "I welcome the news today," she commented, "that funding of 6million will be invested to remove 18 pinch points on the River Shannon and Meelick Weir just north of Lough Derg.

"This investment will have a dramatic impact on the potential for flooding in the Shannon Callows south of Athlone with a likely drop in river levels of between 1 and 1.5 feet. This will be of major comfort and benefit to the families and communities in Shannon Callows, while improving the numbers of the wading birds that nest in the Callows as well as supporting agriculture & tourism.

"Following on from a number of representations I have made to the relevant Departments, funding will now be provided for major cleaning works in the Shannon's tributaries which will in turn lead to the resolution of long standing flood concerns.

"Works will get underway next Spring, as soon as water levels allow, with a five year commitment to funding."


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