The Office of Public Works should be given urgent statutory authority to operate as the lead agency in monitoring and managing flood risk on the river Shannon, according to the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht. Other stakeholders should be obliged to liaise with the OPW and keep it informed of any activities they are engaged in that will have an effect on the Shannon and its waters.
A programme of continuous monitoring of the flow on the river Shannon, its tributaries and the waters feeding into it should be put in place, according to the report. The report, which is drawn on an examination of the issue by a working group of the Committee comprising Deputies James Bannon, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Luke Flanagan, Denis Naughten, Brian Stanley and Robert Troy, makes a number of important recommendations and observations on the issue.
Among its other recommendations are:
* Oblige the OPW, in its overseer role, to proactively consult with all the relevant stakeholders on the river Shannon before it implements any plans which will impact on the river, its tributaries and the waters feeding into it.
* Implement an immediate review of the statutory and operational water levels along the river Shannon, its tributaries and the waters feeding into it.
* Declare the removal of silt from the river and immediate priority and put procedures in place to begin desiltation immediately.
* Put in place an early warning weather and river forecast system that would, in certain given circumstances and subject to pre-determined criteria, automatically trigger the initiation of a prompt emergency response plan that would have many of its activities and operations pre-planned and co-ordinated with the various stakeholders.
* Identify and make available areas of bogland along the river Shannonwhich are suitable for being utilised as flood plains at times of increased water flow.
* The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht should consult with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and subsequent to this consultation should instruct the National Parks and Wildlife Service to facilitate the immediate desilting of the river Shannon, its tributaries and the waters feeding into it between the towns of Banagher, Co Offaly and Meelick, Co Clare and so prevent the very likely possibility that a case against Ireland will be taken to the European Commission for failing to protect a very important aspect of our national heritage, the protection and preservation of the habitat of the internationally endangered corncrake and other wading birds.
Chairman of the Committee, Ciaran Lynch TD, says: “We are calling on the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government to study these eight recommendations and to act on them immediately. There is no point in waiting until the Shannon next bursts its banks and brings hardship, mud and cost on the people living along its banks.”