Thursday, 19 September 2019

Questions (272)

Denis Naughten


272. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the engagement that she has had with Waterways Ireland and its contractors regarding the management of water levels in the vicinity of works at Meelick weir; the impact these works are having on the flooding experienced by farmers in the Shannon Callows; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38137/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Waterways Ireland is operationally independent in regard to its management of the inland waterways under its remit and therefore, I have no function in regard to this matter.

The management of flooding risk on the Shannon is led by the Office of Public Works (OPW), working in partnership with other state agencies, including Waterways Ireland.

In relation to the works at Meelick Weir, Waterways Ireland has informed my Department that the ongoing works to the weir has had no effect on the management of the water levels in the Shannon.

It should be noted that rainfall throughout the Shannon catchment during the summer up to the end of July was generally less than or about average. In early August the level in Lough Ree was at the bottom of normal operating range for the time of year.  However rainfall throughout August was over one and half times the average.

In advance of the forecasted heavy rainfall, Waterways Ireland opened all sluice gates at the new cut in Marlborough Weir on the 7th of August, and all sluice gates at Meelick Weir on the 10th of August.

The ESB, which manages the level at Lough Ree, closed all gates at Athlone Weir on the 8th of August. Waterways Ireland removed 77 weir boards from Meelick weir on the 11th of August with a further 18 removed on the 14th of August. These actions where undertaken to mitigate the effects of rising levels in the Callows south of Athlone and were in accordance with the Guidelines for control of water levels on the River Shannon.

However, as a result of the prolonged and heavy rainfall in August, levels in both Lough Ree and the Callows have risen. Current levels in Lough Ree and the Callows are in a range that is exceeded about 20% of the time on average.

The water level in the Callows is approximately 0.9m above the level at which flooding of the Callows commences. The level in Lough Ree is approximately 0.7m above the minimum target level for Lough Ree at the end of August.