Northern Ireland

Lough Neagh: Winter flooding report urges review of water levels

The Rivers Agency has been pumping water from a number of properties in the area
Image caption Businesses and houses around Lough Neagh were damaged in last year's floods

A report into last year's winter flooding has recommended a review of the water levels in Lough Neagh.

Homes and businesses in Mid Ulster and County Fermanagh were badly affected by flooding caused by severe storms.

More than 170 homes and 36 businesses were hit and 3,300 hectares of farm land was left under water.

Fifteen consecutive school days were lost in parts of the Erne and Neagh basin because rural roads were impassable to buses.

The total cost of preparing and dealing with the floods was £12.6m A report commissioned at the time has just been published.

It says fresh hydraulic modelling of water flows into and out of Lough Neagh should be done. That, in turn, should lead to a "review of the statutory water levels".

The report by Alan Strong, chair of Northern Ireland's Drainage Council, says thought should also be given to alternative use of land in the Lough Neagh floodplains.

Image caption Last winter, Upper Lough Erne, which is normally 45 square kms, grew to almost twice that size

He said there needed to be greater clarity in public messages about flood severity and frequency.

The water levels in Lough Neagh are controlled by the Rivers Agency using flood gates at Toome and further along the River Bann.

Farmers, businesses and homeowners had demanded that the water level be lowered.

The report found that the gates had been operated properly. But it said to "do nothing" was not an option.

"A review of lough water levels, against the competing needs of users, is a minimum answer," the report said.

However, Mr Strong said there was "no engineering solution which could reduce the level of flooding" on the lough.

Image caption Dan McQuillan's home was flooded a year ago and he says that it is still drying out

He said there was little chance of long-term funding for enlarging the channel between Upper and Lower Lough Erne.

But he said that there needed to be constant monitoring and maintenance of the water courses to prepare better for winter rains.

Among those affected by the flooding was Dan McQuillan whose home was flooded a year ago.

"Twelve months on and we are not much further down the road," he said.

His home is still drying out and many of his possessions are still in a container.

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