Some progress on flood defences made but more needed
Published 09/01/2016 | 02:30
Over the last decade, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has invested just over €230m building flood defences across the country.
Major at-risk towns and built-up areas have escaped flooding over the past five weeks as a result, including Clonmel, Carlow, Mallow and Fermoy.
But the OPW has identified the 300 most at-risk areas across the country needing works, meaning that hundreds of major population centres remain unprotected.
Major investment is needed over the coming years to prevent a repeat of the devastating scenes in Athlone and Clonlara in Co Clare which saw families evacuated from their homes as the waters rose.
While local authorities are directly responsible for 'minor' works costing less than €500,000, the OPW takes responsibility for major schemes. Seven are currently under construction, with a further 29 at various stages of planning.
But many of these are falling behind schedule due to delays in completing detailed designs, or a failure to appoint consultants to oversee the projects.
They includes schemes for Skibbereen in Cork and Crossmolina in Mayo, both of which flooded in recent weeks. Work has yet to get underway in Bandon, which flooded twice, while works in Clare, Dublin, Galway, Wicklow and Waterford are also delayed.
In some cases, the projects are two years behind schedule. The OPW says this is due to the complexity of the issue, coupled with the need to conduct consultation with the public and statutory bodies which can cause delays.
The OPW now has a better handle on the types of challenges which will arise after it completed Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management studies. These will help shape policy and identify areas for priority investment, and reduce risk.