Sunday 22 April 2018

Flood defences to take at least five years - OPW boss

Clare McGrath of the OPW. Photo: Colm Mahady / Fennells
Clare McGrath of the OPW. Photo: Colm Mahady / Fennells

David Raleigh

Flood victims will have to wait at least another five years for flood protection in some parts of the country, the OPW has admitted.

Chair of the Office of Public Works Clare McGrath added it had identified the need for 300 defence schemes nationwide.

The Government has earmarked €430m for the roll-out of flood defence schemes over the next five years.

However, Ms McGrath said it will take more funding and many more years to develop the 300 schemes now identified.

This will mean hundreds of homeowners around the country will again face the threat of further flooding this coming winter and for many more to come.

It will also mean the Government will be asked to fork out more money to help repair households that will ultimately be destroyed again in the event of more flooding.

"At the moment, with the €430m, that's on to a five-year (plan), but in terms of doing 300 (schemes), you're talking further out again," she added.

She was speaking at an event organised by the Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-Ordination Working Group.

The OPW heads up the working group, which includes the ESB, Waterways Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland and other bodies which manage the River Shannon.

However, all of the stakeholders have agreed that rolling out a national plan will be "complex".

The delays are due to a public consultation; design and planning; engagement between the managers of the River Shannon; and engaging with landowners.

Ms McGrath said: "We are going in and interfering on private property when we engage (with landowners). It's a complicated process. There's no doubt about it.

"Different people will have different views."

Asked if it would take years to implement a national plan, Ms McGrath added: "It will."

Each flood scheme faces further scrutiny, in terms of whether or not the scheme poses any threat to areas previously safe from flooding.

Tom Tierney, a senior planner with Clare County Council, said: "One of the things you have to do, in relation to any flood relief proposal, is to examine what implications it might have elsewhere - in other words, you don't want to end up resolving one problem and causing another.

"It is complex, and it is far too early at this stage to start making assertive comments in relation to one solution or another."

Ms McGrath said some schemes, deemed "economically viable" have been or are currently being fast-tracked.

These include, Ennis (Clare); Skibbereen, Bandon, Mallow (Cork); Kings Island (Limerick); Clonmel (Tipperary); Tullamore (Offaly).

Ms McGrath added that the priority was to build defences "around urban city villages where you have communities".

The plans will make up the Shannon Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Plan.

Irish Independent

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