Throughout South Galway, in flooding situations, there are diverse dynamics in play was water makes its way from the Slieve Aughty and Burren mountains to the sea. Once such area is around Tarmon which is what we could call ‘South-South Galway’. The unfortunate thing about Tarmon is that when it comes to flooding – What happens in Tarmon, stays in Tarmon.
Where is Tarmon?
If you on the motorway to Limerick, Tarmon would be on your right about 4 miles outside of Gort.
To the west of Tarmon is Lough Bunny and as we’ve seen in a previous blog, this flows underground into Rockvale, Tierneevin and into Coole/Garryland basin and onward to the sea at Kinvara.
We know that Lough Cutra flows into Gort via the Beagh river, the Gort river and then via Kiltartan into Coole and again, onward towards the sea at Kinvara. Between Lough Cutra and to its west, Lough Bunny lies Tarmon Lough but it doesn’t seem to have a connection to either. There is another slight anomaly here. Between Lough Cutra and Lough Bunny there is also a river coming from Laghtyshaughnessy (close to old Gort Golf Club/New GAA Pitch) and flows through Loughanirra, close to Shanaglish. It continues under the motorway, into Lurga and then into Lough Aslaun, Lough Doo. It continues through Tubber as the CastleLodge River and flows past Derryowen, Derrylumman, Gorteen and into Muckanagh Lough. This eventually flows into the River Fergus, through Ennis and into the Shannon. This is summarized by the following diagram:
Flooding in Tarmon
Tarmon doesn’t seem to have a direct outlet or inlet so there are some underground flows in play. Talking to locals they think that Tarmon is filled underground from Turlough na hÉin, which has connectivity from Lough Cutra. [I’ve heard some people say it’s sourced from Coole but Tarmon is @22 m above sea level, normally, Coole is at 6-7m and Lough Cutra is 33 so the latter is a more obvious choice]. Turlough na hÉin starts to rise, Lisheen Turlough starts to rise and then Tarmon North rises then Tarmon South rises. This is summarized on the map here:
One aspect that concerns the locals of the area is that there is a motorway close to these Turloughs that may have an impact on the hydrology of the area.
They key topic thing to highlight here is that Tarmon doesn’t seem to have a natural overflow (or underflow) and what that means is that if there is some flow into Turlough na hÉin from motorway or Lough Cutra – it simply has nowhere to go out. What happens in Tarmon, unfortunately, stays in Tarmon. In the words of local Ray Fogarty – “The only way water is getting out of here is through evaporation“. That means that on the first day of summer almost 5 months on from the heavy rains, Tarmon South and North are still at a very high level and some roads in the area are not passable.
There has been some work done locally to drain Tarmon South into Lough Attyslany, which drains into Lough Bunny but with Winter 2015 flooding, there are still roads that are impassable in the area.
When the waters rise in these turloughs they are not the same dramatic flows that we’ve seen in other areas. According to the OPW report, the flow rate into Tarmon North is in the order of 0;083 m3/s (300m3/hour peak) which is not a substantial flow.
The main impact of the flooding of Tarmon is that it threatens houses in the area (1 house has flooded many times in the past 20 years but is no longer habitable). The roads in Raththorpe have been impassable even 5 months after the major rainfall.
The key concerns of locals in the area are:
- The community being threatened with flooding with no contingency in place and see a slow but continuous rise in levels every day
- The roads being blocks and very difficult access to some houses (e.g. John McHugh’s house was accessible only through fields for 5 months)
- The amount of farmland underwater and the duration that the flood waters last has a devastating affect on farming
In general, #1 and #2 are the primary concern and the community just wants to have control over the peak levels of flooding in the area. They are very open to maintaining the integrity of the Turloughs but want some mechanism to alleviate these major concerns.
Another major concern affects the residents close to Turlough na Éin where the Tubber road was badly flooded and Walsh’s house got flooded for the first time this year. If there was way to manage the peak levels of Tarmon, this would minimize the risk of flooding in this area.
It wasn’t always like this in Tarmon. Before the 1980s, Tarmon used to completely dry in the summertime and cattle would graze upon the commonage. The Turlough used to rise in the winter but be gone by the summer. There was a swallow-hole in Tarmon South but in the early 1980s it got filled in during land reclamation. Today it’s difficult to see where the swallow-hole was as Tarmon South holds water for most of the year round.
Solutions in Tarmon
The OPW has details solutions in some very detailed reports:
For Tarmon north this consists of a pumped option (remember the flows are not substantial) at specific peak levels into a pre-existing drain that flows into the river at Lurga. This is shown as the green line below:
This solution would be a controlled channel that only kicks into play at a particular peak level and could also be controlled and stopped if necessary. Remember -it’s just to stop houses being threatened. This would also have a positive effect on the area around turlough na hEin. As this reach Lough Doo, Lough Aslaun, it continues a natural flow into the River Fergus and again would not constitute a major flow.
The current drain is in very bad shape, as according to some locals, it probably hasn’t been cleaned in 50 years.
Environmental Impact Blockers
This solution has been previously analyzed by NPWS and was rejected as it was deemed to have an impact on the ‘integrity‘ of the Turlough.
I really think that very soon there is going to be a real head-2-head over this position by the NPWS. I’ve been talking to many members of this community and they are in agreement in maintaining the ‘integrity’ of the turloughs, but they also want to maintain the integrity of their livelihoods and day-2-day existence. It’s all very well sitting behind a desk and hiding behind a vague concept and making decisions on ‘Integrity’ but when you are watching flood waters approach you inch-by-inch over 30 days without any means to protect yourself because of this decision then this reeks of ‘negligence’.
Let’s pretend to do an in-depth analysis of what levels make sense around Tarmon. Let’s see what levels the NPWS are making their stance. In the Tarmon Site Synopsis we get the following summary:
That’s it! There are no maps, there are no levels – nothing. How can the NPWS block this solution? As South Galway continues to flood at drastic levels and water in Tarmon stays for 6 months then I will assume that we’ll get ‘Amphibious Bistort’ in areas where it never was before. This doesn’t mean the NPWS can redraw their virtual boundaries. Let’s stop these NPWS clandestine decisions. Let’s pick Turlough levels and negotiate between landowners and NPWS. Let’s stop this nonchalant dictatorship that we have under the NPWS.
There are several solutions proposed for Tarmon South.
- Keep the existing channel that has been done by the landowners in 2011.This has been explained in the OPW reports, but this drain was blocked during winter 2015 floods.
- Branch the Lough Attlslany channel into Lough Doo where it continues its journey into the River Fergus and onto the Shannon. [Shown in Green below]
From a South Galway Flooding perspective, the 2nd option would be the preference. This is because Lough Bunny levels are already under serious threat as it has flooded the Corofin road and also this is now sending Tarmon overflow into Coole lake which already is under severe pressure draining the entire Slieve Aughty basin.
Overall the solution was well documented in the OPW report and it found the following:
The Tarmon Flood Alleviation Scheme proposal which was further developed in 2003 was found to be technically possible.
The only thing stopping this therefore is the vague sense of “Turlough Integrity” which the NPWS is mandating.
One other consideration is the old drain along the Tubber road. This is in a very bad shape but if cleaned and connected, it could bring some water from this basin to the CastleLodge river directly.
The community around Tarmon has suffered significantly because of flooding during the past 20 years. The levels of Tarmon keep rising and the water is on the land for longer. Roads are cut off around Raththorpe and overall access is limited in the area.
There are solutions that will solve this but there are blockers put up by the NPWS on maintaining the integrity of the Turloughs.
Tarmon is isolated – water flows into from neighboring communities but there seems to be little consideration from other neighboring communities on helping get water out of Tarmon. We have to have consideration here – we are talking about people’s well-being
There are solutions for Tarmon so these should be supported, and solutions sought, not blocked.