The ICMSA says the State should create a single authority for waters and flooding, adding that overall responsibility for a nationwide response has been diluted by the “plethora” of agencies covering the issue.
ICMSA president John Comer said the country needs a national waterways authority that would take over responsibility for the oversight and maintenance of the State’s internal waterways and designated stretches of coastline.
“We have county councils, the Department of the Environment, OPW, National Parks and Wildlife Service, the ESB, various fisheries boards — even the Land Commission has some residual issues in certain parts of the state despite the fact that it was abolished decades ago,” Mr Comer said.
“We have a situation where there is a plethora of agencies and bodies all sharing responsibility for the oversight and maintenance of our waterways and coastlines with resultant confusion about who’s doing what — or, in very many cases, who’s not doing what.”
Mr Comer said it was a truism in every facet of administration that where everyone is responsible then nobody is, and that this is very evidently the case where it comes to oversight and responsibility for rivers and coastal areas.
He said nobody could disentangle the various strands of responsibility, describing the administrative overload as a recipe for chaos and inaction.
“A central authority has to be the first step in any serious attempt to address what looks likely to be a ongoing and potentially very serious threat to large swathes of the country.
“It’s cost-free and it’s logical: The Government should move immediately to set up a national waterways authority and establish its supremacy in all matters pertaining to our waterways.”
Mr Comer said the rural community has welcomed signals that the threat and reality of massive and frequent flooding is finally going to be taken seriously by the Government . He said that this seeming shift in policy will now have to translate into a budget, a plan and action.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said last week that he recognised the difficulties and the hardship being experienced as a result of the recent storms and rainfall — land which is very wet and where slurry tanks full or nearly full. He reassured farmers that he and his department will do all that is possible to assist them at this time.
He said the department would take a common sense approach and that farmers need not be worried or concerned in relation to farm inspections. Where severe storms have damaged fences and where grazing land has large deposits of stone or debris, farmers will not be penalised under direct payments schemes, Mr Coveney said.
“My department is also in close contact with farm organisations through the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council, whose members on the ground are very well-placed to assess the situation. It is at times like this where the community spirit within the farming community comes to the fore.”
Teagasc advisers have said that the main issues facing farmers relate to flooding of farm land, managing slurry storage, ensuring livestock have enough fodder, and preparing for fertilising grassland once the weather and ground conditions improve.
Storms, heavy rain, and floods create additional health and safety risks and farmers need to take extra care to avoid accidents and injury during stormy periods.
Farmers are advised to ensure clean rainwater is diverted away from slurry storage tanks.
Storage tanks are filling up after the winter and ground conditions are not currently suitable for spreading. Slurry can be moved from full tanks to ones where there is still some capacity. When weather conditions improve, farmers can spread small quantities on drier fields. Avoid sloping fields, Teagasc added.
Dr Tom Kelly, Teagasc director of knowledge transfer, said: “Little or no fertiliser has been spread for early grass or for crops. Wait for conditions to improve to spread fertiliser, but have it ordered and in the yard so that it can be applied when the conditions and forecast are better.”
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