Could upstream management reduce Mall flooding risk?


PAY THE FARMERS Cllr John O'Malley has suggested farmers with lands upstream on the Carrowbeg River could be paid in order to help to slow down the flow of the river, to curtail the impact of flooding.  Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Edwin McGreal

Could measures taken upstream in Westport’s Carrowbeg River reduce the risk of flooding in the Mall in the town centre?
At the November meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District, Cllr Peter Flynn made the suggestion of what council engineer Michael O’Grady labelled ‘nature based catchment management schemes’.
“What I think is going to be critical in the next few years and we should engage with landowners upstream along the Ballinrobe Road and up into Aughagower on is to develop suitable planting and landscaping in the vicinity of the river banks so we slow the surge that comes into the river when the storms come.
“That is a key part of it. I am not an expert of the farming side of things but I understand the CAP reforms will encourage this type of practice for landowners but, again, I would ask the council as a whole, be it the environmental side, planning, the Municipal District side, that we do everything possible to make that happen so we do mitigate and reduce the risk of flooding, downstream in particular, in the town area,” said Cllr Flynn.
Cllr John O’Malley however said farmers would not be overly keen on flooding their own lands.
“I don’t think you can be expecting them to slow up the water to flood their lands to save what’s coming down into the Mall. I don’t think they’d be too happy doing that but you might be fit to come up with a project for them whereby you’d pay them to slow down the water for you,” he said.
Michael O’Grady, an engineer with the council’s flood risk management section, said ‘flooding upstream lands’ is known as nature-based catchment management schemes.
He said it is a solution that is being discussed more and more and constituted a big part of a large flood defence scheme in Ballina.
“It is something that’s coming to the fore and it doesn’t always provide the complete solution but it may future proof schemes when we’re looking at climate change and increases in rainfall and water levels,” he said.
He also added it might extend the lifespan of a flood defence scheme.