Rivers in Foyle system rose to once in a generation levels this winter

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Rivers in the Foyle system rose to once-in-a-generation levels during heavy rainfall this winter washing out flood banks and defences on the Burn Dennett and at Strabane and Clady, it’s been revealed.

The Mourne and the Derg were swollen to high water marks not witnessed for 33 and 40 years respectively, while the Finn has only ever risen to a higher level once before in recorded history.

Rivers Minister Michelle O’Neill indicated the flooding that heaped misery on homeowners and businesses, particularly across northern Tyrone, was precedented but only just.

Sinn Féin MLA Michaela Boyle asked the Minister about the recent flooding at Stormont.

“The heavy rainfall in November and December resulted in exceptionally high water levels in the Mourne, Derg and Finn rivers which contributed to the flooding in Castlederg, Strabane and Clady, for example on December 6, 2015 the Mourne river was at its second highest recorded level in 33 years, the Derg river at Castlederg was at its highest recorded level for 40 years on December 5, 2015 and the river Finn at Ballybofey recorded the second highest event on record on November 15, 2015,” the Minister replied.

She said the Rivers Agency will be carrying out post-flood investigations once water levels have subsided sufficiently and resources become available. “The outcomes of the Agency’s investigation and the overall review of the flooding will determine if there is a need for further alleviation measures in these areas. Any flood alleviation measures will be considered and prioritised within the Agency’s capital works programme.

“Schemes will be progressed subject to their viability and availability of resources,” she explained.

Repairs have already been rolled out at the Burn Dennett, and in Strabane and Clady.

“Post flood inspections of flood defences have been undertaken to ascertain any breaches and prioritise for repair. Repairs have been carried out to a breach in an earthen flood bank on the Lifford Road, Strabane and a defective outlet through an earthen bank at Burndennett is in the process of being upgraded,” she said.

“Repairs have also been carried out at a breach in a collapsed flood wall near a bridge at Bradley Way, Strabane and defective defences at a car sales yard and Bridge Road, Clady.

“Removal of silt has commenced on the confluence of an undesignated watercourse and the River Finn at Clady.

“The recently published Western Flood Risk Management Plan, which covers the catchments of the Finn, Mourne and Foyle, includes measures to mitigate flood risk in the Omagh, Strabane and Derry areas.

“The need for joint schemes with the Office of Public Works in the south, with whom the Agency has a long standing working relationship, will also be considered,” the Minister explained.