An independent report on last winter’s floods has found that Lough Neagh was at its highest level since 1928, despite water levels being low prior to storms.
In his report on floods that affected a number of homes and businesses around the lough as well as Dungannon’s Linen Green, Drainage Council chairman Alan Strong recommended a review of water levels and how they are managed.
Some Mid Ulster homes were left under water when the lough overflowed, while a blocked grille on drain near Linen Green Shopping Village flooded the ground floor shops, affecting all 31 shopping units in their first Sunday trading in the run up to Christmas.
In his report, Mr Strong said the £15m incident at Linen Green “raises a bigger issue of the cause and effect of rivers spilling water; hence the maintenance and operations of rivers”.
He said work to clear waterways “cannot ever be neglected, whether by silting or debris deposits”.
In relation to Lough Neagh flooding one farmer interviewed for the report said he had “grave concerns about the management and operation of the Toome Sluice Gates in their role of managing the Lough Neagh water levels”, but the reviewer said it was “not possible to agree with the comments” when taking the needs of other stakeholders into account.
Mr Strong did find that a review of the operating regime of Lough Neagh/Bann water controls was needed in the form of an investigation “to ensure that the arrangements and parameters for its management are adequate to meet modern day needs”.
Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard, who published the independent report on Monday, praised the resilience of those affected by the 2015/16 winter floods.
“We all need to read Alan’s report and then work together to implement the recommendations, so that we are more prepared for future storms,” he said. The report on ‘Review of Winter Flooding’ (Northern Ireland) 2015-2016 can be viewed at https://www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/publications/alan-strongs-report-review-winter-flooding-northern-ireland-2015-2016