Friends of the Irish Environment (FOIE) has threatened a legal injunction to halt flood relief works surrounding Lough Funshinagh in Co Roscommon unless it can see proof that planning permission and the relevant environmental studies were completed for the works.
Lough Funshinagh is a turlough and holds special area of conservation (SAC) status.
A number of homes and farms have been flooded over the last number of years as a result of flooding around the turlough and in June work began on relief works to alleviate the flooding.
On Friday, in a solicitor’s letter to the chief executive of Roscommon County Council and to the chair of the Office of Public Works (OPW), FOIE, through its solicitors FP Logue, said that its ecological advisers who have visited the location have expressed “very significant and grave concerns” about the ecological impacts of the works.
“My client has been unable to identify any publicly available information indicating any documented consent or any evidence of prior environmental assessments in respect of the works which are being carried out.
“In the absence of any evidence that there is a valid consent and/or that these assessments were done, my client is greatly concerned that there will be significant and potentially irreparable adverse impacts on the integrity of the protected sites,” FP Logue said.
Potential damage during “construction alone threatens protected birds during the current nesting season and raises the question of where to dispose of the waste material from the trenching; that no measures are in place to prevent the invasive Zebra Mussel which has colonised Lough Ree and its associated pipelines reaching uninfected Lough Funshinagh; and that the inevitable removal of hedgerows and tree lines will impact on a number of species protected under the Wildlife Act, including bats, badgers, otters, frogs and newts,” FOIE said.
According to ecologist Dr William O’Connor, advising FOIE, “the current works at Lough Funshinagh is one of the worst environmental breaches ever undertaken by a local authority”.
Tony Lowes of FOIE said there is an EU directive around how flood relief works should be managed and planned on a catchment basis.
“Local authorities and the OPW cannot be taking unilateral action outside of those plans. Flood relief schemes in one area have secondary effects in other parts of the catchment, particularly where turloughs are involved.
“That obligation for co-ordination is a legal obligation on the State, including the mandatory environmental assessments which become critical as flooding accelerates with climate change.
“However traumatic, and it is very traumatic, the solution is not to try and hold back nature but to adapt to the changes.
“These residents are being assisted by the Voluntary Home Relocation Scheme and the Farmyard Relocation Scheme with the council granting permission as recently as June 2021 for the demolition of the first dwelling impacted, 200m from the lough,” Lowes said.
Roscommon County Council said it had no comment on the matter at this time in response to queries from the Irish Farmers Journal.
A spokesperson for the OPW told the Irish Farmers Journal: “The OPW is undertaking urgent works at Lough Funshinagh on behalf of Roscommon County Council and any queries in relation to these urgent works should be directed to the council.”