The Office of Public Works has this week confirmed that works on the new emergency flood relief measures have commenced at Lough Funshinagh in south Roscommon.
The confirmation comes following a special meeting of Roscommon County Council last week where the local authority confirmed that it was moving forward with a new plan to remove 2 million cubic litres of water from the turlough.
The original proposal to install an overflow pipe was halted due to a High Court action by environmental group, Friends of the Irish Environment.
The Council, which says it can’t raise flood barriers any higher, described the interim works as “necessary, appropriate, and lawful” and said they would protect local residents, property and the environment.
Part of its statement read: “The Council remains focused on completing a solution to the flooding emergency at Lough Funshinagh.
“The problem has not gone away and in fact the urgency for that solution has only increased with the lake close to 460mm higher compared to this time last year.
“Since the High Court challenge by Friends of the Irish Environment, the Council has retained Malachy Walsh and Partners, Engineering and Environmental Consultants to provide independent advice about what is required to be done.
“They have completed their analysis and have advised the Council on the circumstances where the Council may lawfully carry out an emergency solution development without approval from An Bord Pleanála, or any other third party.
“The Council welcomes the attention given by all interested persons to this complex humanitarian issue, and is committed to progressing the matter in a transparent way that will withstand robust scrutiny”.
Speaking at the special Council meeting on Thursday last, CEO Eugene Cummins said the works would be in compliance with the High Court order and that if they were stopped it would be a “tragic development”.
Mr. Cummins challenged those who would wish to stop the works to “go down and face the people” affected by the rising water levels.
Fallon: ‘Confident as I can be that works will proceed’
Local councillor Laurence Fallon said he was as confident as he could be that works at Lough Funshinagh would be carried out without any further delays.
“From the information I have been given, there has been a robust examination with regards to any legal issues and the Council have provided assurances that they are working within the legal constraints and that there will be no invasion of the SAC (Special Area of Conservation).
“We are talking about a small amount of water being removed from the lake and therefore it’s impossible that anyone would be affected further downstream,” he said.
The Independent councillor said the hardship experienced by families in Ballagh and Lisphelim could not be overstated.
“The rate the water was rising, it was inevitable we would have more flooding next winter,” he said.
“The disappointing thing is if we had been allowed to finish the initial works during the summer, we would be finished now. It’s now a race against time and while the weather is very unpredictable, we have to hope that it goes in our favour and that the rain isn’t too bad over the coming months”.
Cllr. Fallon said judging by historical records, it was unlikely that the turlough would flood before February of next year but that he hoped the interim works would buy residents and the council time to implement a more permanent solution.
“This is a good news story and it’s news that is so badly needed. It’s an intolerable situation for the local residents, who didn’t know whether they were going to have to leave their homes or whether the local road would collapse,” he said.