24th Februrary 2002
As the current high flooding levels continue to prevail along the upper River Shannon Basin, Cllr Tom Crosby has over the last week or so has been finding out the possible causes. The extent of the flooding has considerable worsened over the last 2 or 3 years which is confirmed by a clear bench mark at the home of the 90 year old lady who lives two miles west of Tarmonbarry and who was evacuated by the Fire Brigade two week ago when her home was engulfed in flood waters.
This is only the second time in over sixty years that this lady has had to be evacuated; the previous time was Christmas of two years ago.
The information that Cllr Crosby has obtained clearly suggest that the winter floods are being held back at the sluice gates in Athlone and further down at the Meelick sluices near Portuma which is the last sluices on the Shannon before Ardnacrussa. There seems to be a vested interest to retain the flood water to get the maximum benefit throughout the winter for the massive E.S.B. turbines generating station at Ardnacrussa.
The sluice gates in Athlone and Meelick Lock are closed in around October which in turn controls the flow pace of flood water so as to obtain the maximum benefits over the longest possible period throughout the winter for the E.S.B. turbines generating station at Ardnacrussa near Limerick at the Southern end of the River Shannon.
The consequence of holding back the flood waters have been so evident over the last two or three weeks and have caused so much havoc to families marooned with roads impassable, thousands of acres of land under water, houses and properties flooded etc, in counties Leitrim Longford and Roscommon. I understand that the difference in flood levels from summer levels to the present peak levels is a difference of 7.5 foot which has increased approximately two foot over the past three years or so, I am informed.
Cllr Crosby states that Sluice and Lock Gates were built for Boat traffic, they were never intended to control water levels to suit the commercial viability of any other industry such as the E.S.B. turbines generating station, it is imperative now that all Sluice and Lock Gates should be left open over the winter months so as to allow the natural water flow.
These very heavy Sluice gates and Lock Gates are still in this day and age operated manually by the Lock keepers along the River. I believe now there is an urgent need to provide hydraulic systems tied in with a proper monitoring computerised system similar to those used on rivers throughout Europe and Britain, whereby gates are opened automatically as water levels rise, this would ensure that similar flooding that we have witnesses in recent years could never again happen.
At present there is a so called Shannon River Authority which was establishes by the present Government and made up of there own cronies, who have a responsibility to protect all interest on the Shannon River. We have not seen, or heard of them making one single comment over the last few weeks when people have suffered so much hardship. This Authority should now be abolished and replaced with an action group made up of representatives directly affected along the River Shannon such as the Farming Community, Residents Associations in the towns and villages and so on.
It is essential now that a Flood Fund is put in place to compensate people and families who have suffered so much loss and hardship as a result of the flooding on the Shannon basin. We all seen on our television screens and newspapers only a few weeks ago when part of Dublin 4 was affected by a once off flash flood that the Government Ministers including the Taoiseach were tripping over one another to help the people affected. With statements to the effect that the people of Dublin 4 would be compensated for any damage done to their homes even if they had not their home insured. We have yet to hear from the same Government Ministers how they will help the people of Leitrim, Longford and Roscommon who have suffered so much devastation in successive years.
The onus is clearly on the present Government to act.