Last week the river burst its banks and premises in the town centre saw almost six feet of water seep into the buildings in a matter of hours.
But the Department for Infrastructure has said that there are currently no plans in place to dredge the river, as it offers “limited protection” against flooding.
The petition was started by Daniel Carling, a local environmental activist and angler, who believes that it is “vital” for the Government to act as a matter of urgency “before we are flooded again”.
He believes that the recent disaster “could have been avoided or at least minimised” if the river had been dredged. “One of the sole purposes of the Quoile River is to ensure the town stays drained from water; it carries water out to the sea, that’s why the river is there,” he explained.
“When everything is blocked where does the water go? While we can’t help the weather, the sheer volume of rain or the fact there was a full moon, I do believe if the river was dredged it certainly would have helped the situation.”
He said the amount of sediment building up on the riverbed drastically reduces the river’s capacity to hold water. “For many years the local anglers have been raising the issue of dredging the Quoile and our concerns over flooding the local town,” he said.
“Well, the inevitable has happened and I personally feel that DAERA (Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) and DfI (Department for Infrastructure) are responsible for the task of dredging.
“When this land was taken from the sea and the barriers built, the Quoile played the key role in stopping floods, but she has now been left untouched and un-dredged for many years, silting up and choking.
“The landscape has changed drastically, and she is no longer able to cope with large volumes of water.
“Where the flood stopped in the town is naturally where the old tide line used to be.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) said that dredging “offers limited protection” against flooding and there are currently no plans in place to dredge the Co Down river.
In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, they said: “The recent unprecedented rainfall throughout the wettest October in over 153 years of records, resulted in many watercourses in the south and east of NI rising to record levels, resulting in widespread flooding across this region.
“The Department understands the concerns in relation to flooding in Downpatrick; however dredging offers limited protection to mitigate against flooding on the scale experienced recently across the south and east area of Northern Ireland.
“Inspections are undertaken at the Quoile River to ensure that the water is free flowing.
The recent flooding in Downpatrick
“The Department will also be accelerating plans to undertake an assessment of flood risk to Downpatrick to determine the factors that may have contributed to flooding in this area and identify if there are any viable flood risk management interventions which can be made.”