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Farmers dodge Shannon flood disaster

Hundreds of farmers and dwellers along the banks of the Shannon, who came within a whisker of another flooding disaster during the first week of November, are hoping that the worst may be over for them – at least for the time being.

Michael Silke, Chairman of the Save our Shannon Organisation (SOSO), told the Connacht Tribune that through the first week of November, water levels had been at a dangerously high level.

“There were a lot of very worried people during that first week of November with the water level of the river well over six feet above what it was during the summer.

“At that point it was a danger not only to farmyards and fodder storage areas but also to many dwelling houses – however, thankfully the situation stabilised,” said Michael Silke.

He added it was quite evident what happened to relieve the situation was a decision taken by the ESB to release water through the gates at the old channel, Parteen and at Ardnacrusha, which would then lower the water levels further upstream.

The Save Our Shannon Organisation, which represents all communities living alongside the river who have been adversely affected by flooding over the years, have been seeking three changes to be made as regards water management on the Shannon.

They want a single authority in charge of the Shannon; the lake levels to be reduced at Lough Allen, Lough Ree and Lough Derg; and the removal of a serious pinch points between Athlone and Meelick.

Michael Silke, who lives and farms along the banks of the Shannon at Meelick, said that local communities had been hugely disappointed at the response of politicians to their plight, both over recent years and back through the decades.

“We’ve had the politicians come and meet us many times, and on each occasion, they have promised us this, that and other, but there has been absolutely no delivery on any of the commitments.

“What we are looking for are very realistic and achievable goals: the lowering of the lake levels; one authority; and work on the pinch points, but nothing has been done,” said Michael Silke.

He said that while communities had survived the latest scare at the beginning of this month, it was completely unfair on them to put them through major worry every time the river level rose.

According to SOSO, while they accept that there will be some winter flooding of land, their main objective was to see the return of the Shannon as a free-flowing river ‘contained within its natural wetlands and referred to once again as a majestic river’.

The flooding woes of farmers and residents along the Shannon Callows go back to the flood of 1954 while in more recent times there were catastrophic flood events in December/ January 2015/2016, and in November, 2009.

Seriously heavy rainfall during October and early November sparked the latest fears of a flood disaster. During September, October and the first fortnight of November, the Athenry Met Éireann station recorded almost 400mms. (close on 8 inches)  i of rainfall.

In the period from October 29 to November 6, when the Shannon water levels were at their highest over recent weeks, 73.5mms. (nearly 3 inches of rainfall) fell at the Athenry Station.

While there was some respite from the recent heavy rainfall this week, more downpours are predicted from Saturday through to Monday next. Met Éireann have forecasted rainfall totals of over 34mms. (1.3 inches) during that three-day period for parts of the Shannon area.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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