‘Proactive approach’ called for in flooding prevention

Severe flooding in recent years highlights the need to take a proactive approach and initiate works to protect against future events.

This was what the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Joe Healy, said on Saturday (November 25) at the National Flood Forum in Athlone.

Healy expressed concern that while the draft Shannon Catchment Flood Risk Assessment Management Study (CFRAMS) has – to date – addressed the protection of large towns and some villages, it has ignored farmers, rural areas and farmland.

He urged the Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, to ensure that rural dwellers are not forgotten.

“Flood events on the River Shannon used to be a once in 100-year occurrence.

The fact that two such events have occurred in the last seven years must spur action and lead to the implementation of major works that will either alleviate or mitigate flooding on the Shannon and in other vulnerable areas around the country.

The president outlined that where flood works are under consideration, the public good must override environmental issues. Land designations must not stop works that are urgently required from taking place.

Healy said it is positive to see works now taking place at pinch points on the River Shannon, which – according to the IFA – has not been maintained for almost 100 years, noting: “The recent commencement of works is welcome, but needs to be accelerated.

“A single independent authority should be established to deal with the issues on the river, including impediments such as alluvial islands and silting. These obstructions to the flow of water on the river and from channels to the river must be removed.”

Following an IFA submission this time last year, the cost-benefit analysis to determine whether flood works would be supported was changed to take account of farming and business.

Healy said that works throughout the country that had previously been turned down should now be eligible for support.

Recent government budgets have included an increased allocation for capital works but, Healy warned, there is concern that funding will not be spent given the slow process of proposals, project planning and implementation. He said the Minor Works Scheme must be accelerated with a shorter timeframe to get projects moving.

Healy said there must be a national strategy to deal with the significant damage that has occurred on lands and property.

This must include relocation as an option in some instances and farmyards must qualify where farmers have had recurring flooding problems.

Concluding, Healy explained that with increased recurrence of flooding, it is vital that the government is proactive now; the protection of livelihoods and property are paramount, he said.