Farmers call for action to stop rise in Shannon floods

Sat, Jun 16, 2012, 01:00

URGENT ACTION is needed on the river Shannon and its tributaries to prevent more summer flooding, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association.

Farmers along the Shannon say summer flooding is becoming more frequent and severe. They are calling for a single agency to monitor and maintain water levels along the river.

On the Shannon Callows – which traditionally floods between October and late April or early May – farmers rely heavily on dry summers for the production of silage and grazing ground.

Heavy downpours last Thursday and Friday resulted in flooding on land traditionally used for these purposes. The deluge has meant some silage-bearing ground is being used for grazing, resulting in a loss of winter feed while some farmers are using winter feed for cattle which should be grazing.

Co Offaly farmer John Ryan put his cattle on high ground, normally used for silage, after his grazing ground became swamped. He now fears he may have to sell stock to compensate for the loss.

“In the middle of summer approaching the middle of June, to have nearly 50 acres of land covered is unbelievable,” he says.

“In the last 10 years we have had three or four summer floods that have affected us massively. The feed value off grass and ground is gone this year.”

Mr Ryan is calling for a reduction of summer water levels and the opening of sluice gates down-river before rain falls.

Lusmagh farmer Edward Delahunt says he has about 80 acres underwater that “I cannot put my sucklers on. I don’t know whether I will get silage off it.”

He believes a single authority should maintain the levels.

“There are too many people involved: there’s the ESB, there’s Waterways Ireland, there’s the OPW.”

Mr Delahunt feels the boating fraternity gets priority. “I think they have far more clout.” He adds that the flooding is not only causing hardship for farmers – nesting water fowl are also having their breeding grounds destroyed.

Tom Loonam of the IFA says that, with modern weather forecasting, it should be possible to anticipate heavy downpours and open the gates down river.