Lough Funshinagh: Road closure ‘expected to last several weeks’

Last Friday, February 16th, as part of its response to the Lough Funshinagh flooding crisis, Roscommon County Council made the decision to close the local road (L-2005) at Ballagh, Co Roscommon.

The closure has caused major disruption for local land owners, residents and commuters. Diversions on multiple local roads mean that some journeys which previously took 10 to 15 minutes to complete are now taking up to 40 minutes.

According to the local authority, the most recent road closure is necessary to “facilitate the deployment of additional temporary flood protection measures along this road, aimed at safeguarding adjacent properties from rising water levels”.

  The council says that based on current levels in the lake and predicted rainfall, they have no option but to close the road and have recommended that two families vacate their homes in the interest of their own personal safety.

The duration of the road closure will depend on how long the water level in the lake remains close to or above the level of the public road, says the council.

“This is entirely weather dependent; however, lake levels usually peak in late March to early April so this closure is expected to last for several weeks”.

Speaking to the Roscommon People this week, Councillor Laurence Fallon explained that the inconvenience caused by road closure highlights the need for a solution to be found to the overarching issue of flooding at Lough Funshinagh: “This issue has been ongoing now for far too long. Year in and year out, the local communities in this part of the county have to contend with road closures and flood alerts.

“The local authority and the OPW have been doing Trojan work behind the scenes to try to deliver a solution. It is obviously very difficult for our community, and particularly those with lands and homes at risk of flooding, to remain patient during this ordeal but the fortitude the community have shown is remarkable”.

In a press statement this week, Roscommon County Council acknowledged that the road in question is an “important link between local communities”, adding that it “regrets any inconvenience caused by the flooding, road closures and diversions”.

Councillor Fallon said that while the road is an important link between communities, it is the people at the centre of this flooding fiasco that we must keep in mind: “It’s easy for the wider public to lose sight of the constant threat that there is not just to land and farms here but homes and businesses, too”.

It is understood that a Steering Committee and Expert Working Group set up by Roscommon County Council and the Office of Public Works continues to work toward a long-term solution to address the impacts of climate change on the lough and in particular, according to Roscommon County Council, “the cumulative impacts of increasing amounts of annual rainfall”.

Before the local authority can do any substantial works to address the multi-annual flood risk which has developed at Lough Funshinagh, an environmental assessment of the lough and associated habitats must be carried out “over a sufficient length of time” to account for seasonal variations.

Late last year, Roscommon County Council appointed consultants to begin this work and that is ongoing. According to the authority: “Once the baseline surveys are completed, a project team will identify the optimum solution to protect the environment, threatened habitats and the local community”.

The county council says that based on the solution identified: “… a planning application will be made with a view to carrying out the resolution works as quickly as possible. While this is a lengthy and complex process, the Council and the OPW remain fully committed to finding a viable long-term solution”.

Ongoing since 2016, flooding at Lough Funshinagh has been a constant source of controversy locally. In 2021, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) took Roscommon County Council to the High Court to compel them to cease their proposed flood alleviation works at the Special Area of Conservation (SAC). That matter in ongoing and flood works at the locality have been severely restricted since the environmental group were successful in obtaining their injunction limiting the scale and nature of works at the SAC site.