50 at-risk areas prioritised for flood defences in €1bn scheme
Flood relief schemes will be built to protect 50 at-risk cities, towns and villages as part of the first phase of a €1bn defence programme.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) says detailed designs of schemes to protect Dundalk, Tralee, Limerick, Carlingford and Drogheda will immediately get under way, with planning also to begin on relief works for another 45 areas, including Galway City.
But some at-risk areas will have to wait some time before works get under way. The OPW has identified 118 flood defence works required across the country, with €257m allocated for the first phase of 50 schemes. The remainder will be delivered over the next decade.
But OPW Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran insisted that no area at risk of flooding would be left behind. Speaking to the Irish Independent, he said local authorities could develop schemes for other areas identified as being at risk, but which had not been included on the priority programme, and that individual houses could be protected under the OPW minor works programme or through funding for individual property protection.
"We are protecting 95pc [of at-risk properties] and I will deliver on the other 5pc," he said. "People living in groups of four, five or six houses may feel they have been left behind, but they haven't.
"Local authorities can come in under the minor works programme through my department and we will fund it. I will also make resources available to local authorities to drive through the programme."
The programme was launched in Athlone by Mr Moran and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Some 34,500 properties across the State are at risk of being flooded, and 95pc will be protected when all 118 schemes are delivered.
In addition, the budget for minor works has increased from €3m a year to €5m. Councils will be given funding to employ specialist engineers if required.
The five biggest schemes, in Dundalk, Tralee, Limerick, Carlingford and Drogheda, cost at least €15m each and are designed to project 4,000 properties. The biggest is in Limerick, which will cost more than €40m.
Another 14 will get under way in six river catchment areas, including Galway City, Cavan, Naas, Ballina and Wexford. These projects will cost between €1m and €5m, and will protect 3,300 properties.
These 19 large-scale projects will be directly built by the OPW, but another 31 smaller schemes costing up to €1m will be undertaken by local authorities. They include three in Donegal, three in Tipperary and three in Limerick.
OPW sources said the 50 schemes have been prioritised because the urban areas are most at risk of flooding. Some 42 schemes in other areas are already completed, with 33 under way including a large project in Cork City. Further information is available at www.floodinfo.ie.
But concerns remain about whether insurance companies will provide cover where schemes have been completed and proven to successfully prevent against flooding. Fianna Fáil called on the Government to support its bill which proposes that insurance companies provide cover where a flood defence scheme is in place.