Some 300 areas are at risk of major flooding unless funds agreed
Up to 300 communities all over Ireland are at serious risk of flooding devastation, unless the Government invests one billion euro over the next decade in vital relief works.
Minister for State Simon Harris said €100m per year is required to safeguard vulnerable towns and villages at risk of flood damage.
An estimated €700m has been paid out by insurance companies since 2000, arising from eight major flooding events that ravaged parts of the country.
Mr Harris, who has responsibility for the Office of Public Works, revealed the OPW has completed drafting a list of 300 areas at risk of flooding under the National CFRAM (Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management) programme.
This list will be subject to a statutory public consultation starting in October, and is the last step before finalising a National Flood Relief Plan, required under an EU directive, which will define and prioritise long-term measures to reduce and manage flood risk.
The extent of the flood defence work required is huge, and Mr Harris said he is making a serious case to Government for the necessary provision to be made under the new capital plan to be published in September.
Under the current capital plan, which runs until 2016, just €45mn a year is committed a year to flood relief. Mr Harris says he is seeking a €100 million a year commitment under the new plan, which will run until 2020. The plan is currently being finalised and is to be published by the Government in September.
The 300 areas at risk range from large urban towns to small villages. Even if funding is pledged, work to make them safe will take years, it is understood.
The OPW draft lists towns in all 26 counties, and includes Shannon Airport, Passage West in Cork, Bray in Wicklow, Wexford town, Birr, Co Offaly, and Callan, Co Kilkenny.
There are a total of 24 areas in Dublin listed, including Balbriggan, Baldonnel, Donabate, part of Dublin City, Lucan to Chapelizod, Lusk, Malahide, Mulhuddart, Rush, Santry, Sutton and Howth.
The county with most areas listed is Cork at 33, followed by Donegal at 28.
Mr Harris said events throughout the country over recent years have highlighted the devastation and loss that flooding can cause to people and their property. He said his office is keen to get as many submissions and local views as possible when the list goes to public consultation in October. "The role played by community, business and agri organisations is important and will feed into the process," he said.
He added that the significant economic benefits of flood schemes are beyond doubt. He said €65m worth of damage was caused by the 2002 flooding in Dublin. At the start of this year, there was a greater tidal event in Dublin than 2002 and the total damage was less than €100,000 because of remedial works.
"I am determined that these plans, through a whole-of-government approach, will help people and communities be prepared and reduce the risk and impact of flooding," he said. In recent years successful flood defence works have been carried out in hard-hit areas, including parts of Dublin, Clonmel, Mallow and Fermoy.
The OPW assessments were based on a review of records of past flood events and were carried out in consultation with local authorities and government departments and agencies.
The at-risk areas were devised following consideration of all types of flooding, including river, coastal, heavy rain and groundwater, and taking into account the impact it would have on people, property, businesses, the environment and cultural heritage, including national monuments.
Mr Harris said the main purpose of the draft flooding maps is to increase awareness.
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