Rivers Agency boss vows to review management of Lough Neagh

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River Agency boss David Porter has promised a review of the management of Lough Neagh after recent flooding.

However the Agency Chief Executive did not hold out hope on major changes to the status quo.

Michelle O'Neill (Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development) along with Jonathan McKee  (Director of Developement Rivers Agency) and David Porter (Chief Executive Rivers Agency) viewed the flood protection test facility at Craigavon.

Michelle O'Neill (Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development) along with Jonathan McKee (Director of Developement Rivers Agency) and David Porter (Chief Executive Rivers Agency) viewed the flood protection test facility at Craigavon.

Speaking at the launch of a special scheme for homeowners who have been affected by floods, he said his heart goes out to business which have also suffered.

But he said the way the Agency manages the lough levels is a compromise given the competing needs of many users of the system.

He said that while the agency had seen there was falling of levels in the Lough Neagh River Bann system in the last number of days, in the last 24 hours there has been a ‘small rising’ of water levels.

“But the outlook is for colder weather and less rain and we are hopeful there will be a falling of water levels.”

He promised a review after the recent floods both the engineering aspects and also the multi-agency response.

“As part of that we will consider whether there is any action that needs to be taken,” he said.

“The Lough levels were reviewed in the 1970s and at that stage it was determined that that was the best compromise given the competing needs of the many users of the system.

“So I don’t want to give people undue hope that there is going to be a radical change to the lough level management because we have to keep in mind that there are competing needs.”

Responding to criticisms from local businesses on his remarks to a recent Assembly committee meeting, Mr Porter said he hoped they would listen to his comments in their entirety and he was discussing the issue of competing needs on the Lough.

“There are those who suffer when there is low water and therefore the way we manage the lough levels tries to balance out those competing needs so it is compromise.

“My heart goes out to those people who have been flooded, particularly those businesses because I do recognise the impact on those businesses.”

He said he had visited many homes and businesses and if the businesses in Kinnego want him to meet them, he is happy to do so.

For homeowners a grant scheme has opened today (Wednesday) which will allow people whose homes are at risk or have been flooded to apply to install physical barriers and equipment to help reduce the impact of flooding.

Those eligible will recieve a 90% grant towards the cost of the equipment. Depending on the size and type of their home, the Rivers Agency expects homeowners to contribute between £350 to £750.

Mr Porter said at this minute the scheme is only for dwelling houses.

“The reason that was done was because we recognise that those people were the most vulnerable and least able to help themselves.

“The minister is committed to looking for help for businesses and is looking for evidence to support that and that is therefore for the Executive to consider.”