Cork faces five-year wait for full flood defence
Cork faces up to five more years of continued flood threats before a complex River Lee defence scheme will be fully operational.
Traders warned the city cannot sustain a fifth major flood in the space of eight years as they urged the Government and the Office of Public Works (OPW) to fast-track proposed works.
Flooding in 2009 alone inflicted an estimated €100m in damages.
An agreed blueprint of the River Lee flood defence scheme is expected by next month with tenders for the first phase of work likely by November.
Costing between €50m and €60m, the scheme represents the biggest urban flood defence plan ever to be attempted in Ireland.
However, both the OPW and Cork City Council admitted that construction work won't begin before 2016.
And the scheme is not expected to be fully operational until at least 2018 - with some warning this could become 2020 if any construction delays arise.
Furthermore, there are concerns that the flood defences will not go far enough.
A Thames-style flood barrier would have offered Ireland's lowest-lying city full protection from future flooding - but was rejected on the basis of its €1bn cost.
The OPW has insisted its proposed €50m flood defence plan for Cork harbour will provide sufficient protection.
Cork has suffered four major floods over the past six years, with last February's tidal flooding causing misery for city centre traders.
Donal Healy, director of Cork Business Association, said: "The clock is already ticking on this project because traders simply cannot afford another major flood.
"Some traders don't have flood protection insurance and have to foot the cost for all damage from their own pocket."
Cork City Council and Cork County Council will be fully involved in the OPW flood defence masterplan which sought public submissions last summer.
The OPW insists the plan will protect the city and its vulnerable suburbs and bring hi-tech water management systems to Cork.
"We have a scheme which we are proposing and that scheme for flood relief purposes is made up of a package of measures," an OPW spokesperson said.
"That is the best international standard and practice in terms of providing flood relief defence for a major urban area."