Shannon dredging and clearing work is postponed

Thursday, 8 February 2018

DREDGING and clearing work on the Shannon was due to recommence on Monday but it had to be postponed due to high river levels.

The IFA Flood Project Chairman Padraic Joyce told the Midland Tribune that maintenance was carried out last year at Madden's Island, downstream of Banagher, where trees had been impacting on the flow of the river. Further works are to be carried out at Madden's Island in early 2018 when the next environmental window for works will allow.  

 In September an enormous amount of silt was dredged from the river at Muckinish, near Meelick. Half of the width of the River at Muckinish was blocked with silt and emergent vegetation. A silt curtain was installed at this freed-up section to prevent it from silting up again.

OPW Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran told the Tribune in September that his intention was to tackle about ten pinchpoints along the Shannon system each year. In January he announced that the clearance works would recommence on February 5. It's expected a new date will be chosen shortly.

Padraic Joyce said the works will have to commence very shortly because there is only a short window between now and the beginning of the nesting season later in the Spring. He said the IFA hopes the OPW will tackle seven locations on the river during the next couple of months, and remove silt and other material.

He said the general feeling is that the flooding this winter hasn't been as bad as it could have been, perhaps due to the judicious release of water at Ardnacrusha, the erection of flood defences and the clearance work which has already taken place. "A lot of rain fell this winter. It was a bad winter. The feeling is that in previous winters, if that amount of rain had fallen, then the flooding would have been worse. It seems that we have got better in dealing with this issue, but there is still a long way to go."

In September Minister Moran said some people were concerned about the environmental impact of the dredging work. He said the silt wasn't natural but was manmade, entering the river due to runoff from works over the decades. Critics have argued that the silt is peat created in large part by Bord na Móna who didn't put in adequate filtration systems over the decades to prevent run-off from their bog cutting works.

Works are planned for Meelick Weir, the New Cut at Breaninch and Illaunalliagh, Shannon Grove (Kilnaborris) and Marlborough Weir at Incherky. These plans also include the New Cut weir removal.  

 In November it was predicted by Minister Denis Naughten that government funding of €6 million will result in the lowering of the Shannon's level by between one and 1.5 feet south of Athlone. "This will be of major comfort and benefit to the families and communities in the Shannon Callows," commented Minister Naughten, "while improving the rates of the wading birds that nest in the Callows as well as supporting agriculture and tourism. Funding will be provided for major cleaning works of tributaries of the Shannon which in turn will lead to the resolution of long standing flood concerns. Works will get underway next Spring as soon as water levels allow with a four year commitment to funding."


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