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Landowners along Shannon Callows fear weather wipeout

The future viability of farming across thousands of acres of land in the Shannon Callows area is now threatened after the second flooding disaster of the year hit the area over recent weeks.

Local farmer, James Nevin, told the Connacht Tribune that farmers now had no chance of getting thousands of bales of hay and silage due to the flooding – a supply of fodder which he said was critical for the coming winter-feeding season.

“Everyone could see this coming. The heavy rains of mid-July were predicted for days in advance and yet those in charge of water flows on the Shannon did nothing to help relieve the situation.

“In the run-up to our wettest period of weather around July 14 and 15, many of the gates [holding back the water] were closed. At Shaughnessy’s Gate, 10 [gates] were open but 8 were closed; at Meelick Weir, 7 were open and 5 were closed, even though everyone knew the floods were coming,” said James Nevin.

He said that hundreds of farmers at this point ‘just don’t know’ where their winter animal feed is going to come from, given that the callows would now take a month to dry out, even if a period of dry weather arrived.

“The management of water levels is destroying farming in this area which takes in large stretches of land in Galway, Offaly, Roscommon and Westmeath.

“Bodies like Waterways Ireland, the ESB and the OPW (Office of Public Works) just won’t respond or heed any warnings about rising water levels.

“We are also terribly disappointed at the response of our local politicians to what is happening – they are simply doing nothing to try and rectify the problems that recur here year after year,” said James Nevin.

He added that along with many other farmers in the area, they had suggested very practical and ‘doable’ measures which would help to ease the flooding problems such as the removal of a few key ‘pinch points’ along the waterway and the opening of gates in the days before the heavy rains arrived.

Environmental restrictions on farmers in the Shannon Callows mean that they can’t cut hay or silage until July 1 each year but now thousands of acres of grass have been destroyed by the floods and will not recover this season.

This is the second ‘wash-out’ of the year for farmers in the area with the heavy rains of last March – over 7 inches fell during the month – preventing the late spring grazing of the callows.

Long-time campaigner for basic flood relief measures to be put in places, Michael Silke from Meelick, said that they had ‘ran into a brick wall’ in terms of getting any response to their concerns from Waterways Ireland, the ESB and from politicians.

“The really shocking aspect in all of this, is that there are solutions to these flooding issues, but no one listens or wants to know.

“No one seems to care that farming as a way of life in the Shannon Callows area is under threat because of the disastrous management of the waterway and the failure to carry out basic maintenance works on key pinch points along the channel,” said Michael Silke.

Met Éireann are predicting that the unsettled conditions are set to continue for at least the next week or so. There was more heavy rain on Wednesday of this week with showers predicted for the weekend before another heavy pulse of rain seems set to arrive on Sunday night/Monday morning.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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