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Laois councillors demand river dredging to stop climate change floods

Surface flooding in Portlaoise this week.

Posted on October 30, 2023

Laois county councillors are demanding that rivers in the county be dredged urgently, to curb climate change flooding.

Several councillors claimed that scraping out rivers with large machines to clear silt and growth is actually good for fish.

They made their pleas for action at the October meeting of Laois County Council, having been notified that the Draft Laois County Council Climate Action Plan is going on display for public consultation.

The final plan after public views have been gathered, has to be adopted by the councillors by February 2024.

Farmer and Cllr Willie Aird led the call to dredge rivers.

“The most responsible thing is to allow us to clean rivers so you don’t see what happened in Cork. I’ve never seen as much rainfall at this time of year.  The single biggest problem we have is to convince the Department that there is one way to alleviate the problem, to clean rivers and blockages.

“I remember seeing dredgers years ago, it’s not a question of interfering with the flora or fauna, it’s silt. It’s 100 times worse now, we have hundreds and thousands more houses and more roads and less land to soak up the rain before it hits rivers.  It’s awful what’s going on. Some group out there is stopping us solving the problem,” he said.

Cllr Ollie Clooney claimed fish were healthier when rivers were regularly dredged.

“The talking now is over, this is a very serious matter. There is farmers had to take cattle in in September. The poor cattle were up to their feet in water. This is doing serious harm to the income of farmers and I’m one. Salmon and fish were bigger and healthier when rivers were dredged, I’ll stand over that,” he claimed.

Cllr Aisling Moran claimed that an EU law is there to clean out rivers, but Ireland “uses it not to”.

“As a kid I remember local rivers always had salmon and trout, with bailiffs to stop people fishing, now there are not even pinkeens. The cattle would be in eating vegetation, now they are not allowed either. The law needs to be looked at. We saw Middleton. It will happen here,” she said.

Cllr Ben Brennan supports dredging, noting a “massive job” done on the River Barrow in Graiguecullen.

“They put in a pumping system but if they were allowed to dredge it, they could go all the way to St Mullins. The Barrow is slow flowing, the water is not getting away,” he said.

Cllr PJ Kelly described his flooded farmland.

“We have land and it’s under water at the moment. My brother had to rescue three cattle who were up to their bellies in water. Before I had to store cattle on a bank and wade through four foot of water to feed them hay. There was a call to the department to complain but we couldn’t move them or they’d drown.

“Weeds are rising from river beds up to six and eight foot, blocking the eyes of bridges. As Cllr Clooney said, there are no fish in the rivers, no life. I’m sick of it. In summer the weeds were that bad and dirty the swans couldn’t even stretch their wings to land,” he claimed.

Also adding his voice to dredging is Cllr Barry Walsh.

“It’s gone past ridiculous. They need to start listening. In our village we fished for pinkeens, its dead now because it’s not being dredged,” he said.

Cllr John King said that as farm machinery has increased in tonnage, it has compacted land.

“Water has to be able to flow out at all times. Climate change is here to saty, it’s not looking good in the short term,” he said.

Laois County Council will hold public consulation days in local libraries in the coming weeks to show the draft climate plan, which will also be on display on their website and in county hall, Portlaoise.


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