Bord na Mona can sustain jobs and prevent flooding – Naughten

Woodchip must be grown locally not imported from Africa

Bord na Mona must not only become a key economic driver for job creation in the midlands, but it also has the capacity to help alleviate the flooding problems within the Shannon catchment, claims Roscommon Galway Independent candidate, Denis Naughten.

“At the moment many people are concerned with regard to the future of close to 800 direct and indirect local jobs after 2019 when the current peat contract ends,” stated Denis Naughten. “After this date, it is the intention of the ESB to burn peat in conjunction with an increased amount of biomass and wood chip in the West Offaly and Lough Ree power stations. Instead of importing this wood from Africa, it is vital that this biomass is grown locally to support the existing jobs and supplement farmers’ incomes.”

Speaking with Bord na Mona staff in Clonfad in South Roscommon this week, Denis Naughten said: “The company should be pushing ahead with the development of a biomass crop that will grow on marginal land, such as eucalyptus, which can be grown close to the power stations in Shannonbridge and Lanesboro, and will ensure that local people are employed in the planting, harvesting and transportation of the crop.

“Not only will this generate additional income for local farmers on non-productive land, but these biomass crops hold far more water than grassland, and as a result reduce the speed with which water flows into streams and rivers.

“But it is not just in terms of biomass that Bord na Móna can help address flooding. The fact is that Bord na Mona must become an integral part of the flood relief planning for the Rivers Shannon and Suck due to the unique skills available to the company.

“By allowing cut away bogs, which are no longer required for peat production, located North of Lough Ree, South of Athlone and within the catchment of both the Suck and Brosna Rivers to flood naturally, it would help to reduce the overall height and duration within the Shannon and Suck basins.

“Bord na Móna can also assist with the removal of silt that has built up in the Rivers Shannon and Suck. In particular there is a serious blockage in flow of the River Shannon between Banagher and Meelick, which is forcing both the Shannon and Suck to back up and compounding the scale of the flooding problem.

“By using Bord na Mona with its staff, equipment, flexible rail network and the now unused cutaway bog as the lead agency in the removal of this silt from the Shannon basin, we could remove these blockages and maintain the river on an ongoing basis.

“To do this the Bord na Mona remit must be expanded and the current legislation and supports for biomass energy must be overhauled to allow for this industry to develop. In tandem with that, management at Bord na Mona must now engage with its seasonal workers and farmers with a view to developing a sustainable biomass industry which, over time, can provide a vital financial support to local families,” concluded Denis Naughten.