Roscommon Council to restart controversial flood relief at Funshinagh

Council chief says anybody who stops scheme should ‘go and face the people’

Roscommon County Council is to restart efforts to reduce water levels at Lough Funshinagh, a naturally occurring lake which is flooding farmlands and poses a threat to a number of homes.  Photograph: Lough Funshinagh Flood Crisis

Roscommon County Council is to restart efforts to reduce water levels at Lough Funshinagh, a naturally occurring lake which is flooding farmlands and poses a threat to a number of homes. Photograph: Lough Funshinagh Flood Crisis

 

Roscommon County Council is to restart efforts to reduce water levels at Lough Funshinagh, a naturally occurring lake which is flooding farmlands and poses a threat to a number of homes.

The High Court in August granted an order directing an immediate stop to efforts to drain the lake following complaints that the work breached environmental legislation.

However, announcing the resumption of works, the council said anyone who would now attempt to halt them for a second time should “go down and face the people” who live around the lake.

Lough Funshinagh is a turlough or “disappearing lake” – which rises and falls depending on underground movements of water. In recent years it has not been draining rapidly and locals say the last time it did so was 1996.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has warned that farmers could lose out on European Union farm payments unless the waters recede and land is available for agricultural use. The Irish Farmers’ Association has also expressed its concern over possible farm payment interruptions.

In a statement to The Irish Times, the council confirmed it “remains focussed” on “completing a solution to the flooding emergency at Lough Funshinagh”.

The council said that since the since the High Court challenge, which was taken by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), it had retained consultants to advise on how it “may lawfully carry out an emergency solution development without approval from An Bord Pleanála, or any other third party”.

Announcing the decision at a special council meeting on Thursday, county chief executive Eugene Cummins said the works would be in compliance with the High Court order. He said that all costs, including FIE’s costs of the legal challenge, would be borne by the council.

He said if the latest “works are stopped it would be a tragic development” and that “if they are stopped, whoever stops them should go down and face the people” affected.

FIE expressed shock at the council’s position, saying the original scheme to drain Lough Funshinagh would have seen water pumped to a small watercourse 2km from Lough Ree, potentially threatening another community at Carrowmurragh.

It said the purpose of the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive was to make sure the upshot of such measures was fully investigated, including the impact on other communities.

FIE has also taken issue with the council’s claim that “environmental screening”, as commissioned by the council, could replace the requirement for a full environmental impact assessment.

“I can not believe what the council said. It is absolute rubbish,” said FIE spokesman Tony Lowes. “It is unworthy of the people of Roscommon to continually suggest that the voluntary members of FIE do not have the greatest sympathy for those who are being flooded and are not just as decent human beings as they are.”