'River banks not reinforced due to red tape'
Minister says 'bureaucracy' stopping landowners doing own flood protection work
Published 04/01/2016 | 02:30
Housing and Planning minister Paudie Coffey has slammed what he described as excessive "red tape" and "bureaucracy" which are preventing homeowners from reinforcing river banks.
In an email seen by the Irish Independent, Mr Coffey wrote that residents would take measures to protect their property if they were permitted to do so by authorities.
It comes as communities across Ireland remain on alert against further flooding as water levels are still perilously high.
Mr Coffey, a Fine Gael TD for Waterford, last night instructed department officials to carry out an urgent review of the rules surrounding the dredging of rivers.
"In my experience, there is far too much red tape and bureaucracy surrounding landowners who wish to reinforce river banks to protect their livelihoods and homes.
"This is evidenced again by serious issues that have arisen due to a lack of river bank maintenance programmes," he said in the email.
"Many landowners will do this work themselves if they are allowed to do so by the authorities. This is a matter I've raised many times previously but I'm finding it extremely difficult to make progress on."
Some 260 homes are now flooded, with another 230 at risk, according to the National Co-ordination Group.
Some 14 families were evacuated from their homes in Clonmel over the weekend in anticipation of rising flood waters and heavy rain.
Meanwhile, last night, around 60 residents of an apartment complex in Athlone were forced to leave their homes after the ESB disconnected the electricity supply. The company said it cut the supply to the Bastion Quay complex on the banks of the River Shannon for safety reasons as pillars connecting a sub-station to the building were submerged in flood water.
And more evacuations are likely in other parts of the country as water levels continue to exceed 2009 levels.
Speaking at a National Co-ordination Group meeting, Brendan McGrath of the City and County Management Association said six families needed to be evacuated from the western side of Athlone. Over the weekend, the Shannon there rose by 5cm.
"As the Shannon rises somewhat more over the coming days, particularly rural homes on the south side will become endangered," Mr McGrath added.
Meanwhile, the River Brosna, a tributary of the Shannon, exceeded its 2009 peak when it rose by 39cm.
As flood waters remained high in the worst-hit parts of Limerick and Clare, the ESB advised homeowners there that it was maintaining the flow of discharge along the lower Shannon at 470 cubic metres per second.
The ESB said it would review the situation again today and warned that levels in Lough Derg may reach 2009 levels in the coming days "and, as a result, the flow through Parteen Weir may increase to those levels (up to 500 cubic metres per second)".
Areas hit hardest by the discharge of excess water from the Parteen Weir include Springfield, Montpelier, Castleconnell, Mountshannon, Annacotty and the University of Limerick.
Tom Browne of the ESB said the release of excess water from the Poulaphouca reservoir had caused some flooding along the middle River Liffey in Co Kildare, which he said was "bank full".
There was some good news for residents of Cork and Kerry after Met Éireann removed a status yellow rainfall warning in the south and south-west of the country.
Sodden ground is a major concern for local authorities, although Cork County Council hopes some improvement in the weather will allow excess waters to recede.
The ESB continues to discharge waters from the Inniscarra Dam at rates of up to 225 cubic metres per second, down from 250 on Saturday.
A boil water notice remains in place for around 10,000 residents in the Whitegate area of east Cork.
Meanwhile, the N25 Cork to Waterford Road is impassable between Killeagh and Castlemartyr. Gardaí warned that diversions already in place were no longer suitable for heavy goods vehicles.
Jim Casey of the OPW said water levels in the Suir, Munster Blackwater and Bandon rivers had fallen over the weekend. But he expressed concern about levels of the Slaney, Nore, Inny and Moy rivers.
The Defence Forces deployed 137 troops in the past 24 hours to help in flood relief, filling sandbags and evacuating homeowners.