Sunday 25 September 2016

Floods will never be stopped, says task force

David Raleigh

Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30

Last year’s winter storms caused devastation along the 10,000 square mile River Shannon catchment. Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Last year’s winter storms caused devastation along the 10,000 square mile River Shannon catchment. Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

A senior official in the Office of Public Works (OPW) has admitted it can never fully solve the country's flooding crisis.

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny established the state task force on flooding following last year's winter storms, which caused devastation along the 10,000 square mile River Shannon catchment.

But Head of the Flood Risk Management Division at the OPW, Mark Adamson, has said: "We won't be able to stop entirely the kind of floods that we saw last winter or in 2009. The volumes of water which come down the Shannon are colossal," he told the Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group open day.

Sources in the ESB, which is another of the state body's key stakeholders, have also said nothing could hold back the type of flooding seen in 2015.

"The Shannon catchment is about 10,000 square miles, so with 100mm of rain falling in Storm Desmond over a 24-hour period - that would give you a billion tonnes of water falling on the Shannon catchment," the source added.

Clare McGrath, Chairperson of the OPW, said the group had identified 66 communities along the River Shannon catchment at "greatest risk" of flooding.

She said it was acknowledged by all parties involved, that implementing flood relief schemes was "not straightforward".

Ms McGrath said the working group is currently examining what the best methods of preventing flooding are.

The open day was attended by representatives of the farming community, who expressed "concerns" that the Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group is not actively tackling its task.

Chief Executive of the ESB, Pat O'Doherty, described the closed meeting with the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) in Athlone as "frank discussions".

He said there was "no silver bullet" to tackling the flooding crisis. "The IFA made their views known, and we listened," Mr O'Doherty said, following the meeting.

"It brought back the sheer devastation that was caused ... I think there was a recognition in the room that (flooding) is a complex problem. There is no single quick fix that is going to alleviate flooding end-to-end on the Shannon."

Speaking after the meeting, IFA Flood Project Team Chairman, Tom Turley, said he was "concerned" the working group was not meeting up again until after the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management report, which is due to be published in three months' time. "That doesn't sound to me like an active group getting to grips with their responsibilities," he said.

Mr Turley said if the stakeholders on the working group did not yield results, they should be sacked.

Meanwhile, Mickey Dunning and his wife Gerty, from Athlone, lost their flood insurance after their home and farm was flooded in 2009. Last year, the deluge again destroyed everything. Mr Dunning (66), said he was eligible for "humanitarian aid" funding, but "one-third" of the money would be taken in VAT and other taxes.

Irish Independent

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