Farmers along the River Shannon from Athlone to Meelick have said they are faced with a second consecutive year of early winter flooding on their Shannon Callows land.
Flood waters from the Shannon have spread across silage and grazing fields with higher ground still saturated by storms Ellen and Francis.
Local lobbying group Save our Shannon Organisation, has called for the creation of a single authority with total control of the maintenance and navigation levels of the Shannon.
The group suggests the flooding has been heightened by a buildup of silt islands, overhanging trees, weeds and vegetation along the river course.
“Little or no management has been organised by the State over the past 100 years. Government agencies have not implemented a coordinated plan to carry out maintenance of the river,” Save our Shannon Organisation PRO, Liam Broderick told the Irish Farmers Journal. “The ESB and Waterways Ireland don’t seem to have a plan to release water at sluices in Lough Allen, Athlone, Meelick and Parteen Villa in time to lower levels of water in the Shannon ahead of predicted torrential rain.”
‘Having a flood in summer is a killer’
– Suckler and sheep farmer Thomas Lantry, Banagher, Co Offaly
“Normally, we would get a winter flood but having one during the summer months is a killer. My sheep will have to be off the Callow ground by the end of September; in a good year they could be left out there until mid-November.
“Over 60 acres of my ground won’t be available from now until after March of next year. Winter floods have got worse also. In February, my land was under five feet of water. It’s unsustainable to be farming this land. It’s available for a shorter amount of time each year. The rain from the recent storms has only added to the issue.
“The floods are getting worse as a result of a lack of maintenance and management of the River Shannon by the ESB, Waterways Ireland and the OPW.
“There are 12 sluice gates at Meelick weir, which control the level of the river beside my land. If these were managed properly we wouldn’t be having this problem. Two of the gates were still closed during the storms which heightened the water level.”
‘A lot of farmers are in the same boat’
– Dairy farmer Francis Nally, Cloonbonny, Co Westmeath
“We have a 150ac block running along the River Shannon. Between 50 and 60 acres of this have been under water since storm Francis hit last week.
“The floods are here for longer and longer and are constantly getting higher.
“Nobody is accountable for what’s happening to our land.
“Waterways Ireland, ESB, and OPW must maintain and increase the outlets for this water and prevent our land from flooding.
“For the past two years, we’ve only been able to access our land from April to August. It’s a waste of time farming down here and there’s a lot of farmers in the same boat.
“The will isn’t there with the powers that be to do anything about it.
“The gates in Meelick aren’t monitored. This is the main source of the problem for us.”