The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has pushed responsibility for a decision on the de-designation of Lough Funshinagh back in the direction of Europe, as works to alleviate repeated flooding remain on hold.

Local farmers and politicians had cited hopes that de-designating the special area of conservation (SAC) would allow for these works to resume to avoid flooding over coming winters.

The NPWS and the Department of Housing, which oversees the agency, failed to state if any preparations have been made to rule in or out the possibility of de-designation when pressed for detail by the Irish Farmers Journal.

To remove an SAC designation, ecological assessments are needed to show that the designation is no longer having the desired effect of preserving protected species of plants and animals.

Farmers on the shores of Lough Funshinagh have expressed concerns that rising floodwaters are damaging wildlife around the lake and Roscommon County Council had begun construction of an overflow pipeline from the lake to relieve flooding, which has occurred yearly over winter months after the turlough failed to recede from its winter high in 2016.

However, earlier this year, the works were stalled when a court challenge was brought against the project’s adherence to planning regulations.

‘Slow to drain’

The NPWS told the Irish Farmers Journal that de-designation is not a decision that Government “can take in isolation, but would require ratification by the DG Environment of the European Commission”, adding that the process would have to be “based on scientific grounds”.

“While most turloughs empty each summer, Lough Funshinagh is slow to drain, typically every four to five years. It is evident that Funshinagh does not get a chance to ‘reset’ its flood pattern each year,” a spokesperson speaking on behalf of both the Department of Housing and the NPWS said.

“As a consequence, Lough Funshinagh has not drained since before the 2016 flood. This issue has been further exacerbated by the heavy rainfall in recent years.”

The spokesperson added that the site had been designated because of both the turlough habitat and the Chenopodion vegetation found around the lake.

Farmer concerns for coming winter rains

The Irish Farmers Journal spoke with sheep and suckler farmer Padraig Beattie, who has had land flooded since 2016 and whose farmyard is under threat of flooding with winter rains.

“We are solely dependent on the weather. It’s as simple as that,” Beattie said.

“Where the lake is now, after the dry summer is where it would be at full winter flood normally [pre 2015]. It’s lower than this time last year, but it would have been about there the year before and we had flooding then.

“The pumps are still in front of the house. The whole farmyard is under threat. Having a farm without a farmyard, it’s like having a car with no wheels,” he said.

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