Monday 21 October 2019

Call to action on Ahare River flooding issue

Cathy Lee

A large crowd gathered at the Golden Anchor pub in Castletown to raise their concerns about how frequent flooding on the Ahare bridge from the river below is having an impact on people’s lives there.

Organisers said that as a result of the meeting, a working group with Wexford County Council will now be formed to ensure action.

The group said that floods are getting worse year on year and that for the first time in their memory, the river flooded outside of the usual season, during August.

‘We organised the meeting to raise public awareness and draw people’s attention to the danger there. It’s not known about outside the general area, but the river tends to flood very quickly so you could be driving along and you wouldn’t be expecting it and you’re in it in a second, damage done,’ the group said.

Although there are road warning signs about the flooding on either side of the bridge, during storms and heavy rain, particularly during the winter months when itis dark outside,there are often people left stranded in their cars on the bridge.

‘During school drops, people are getting stuck at the bridge and children are being left at the school unattended. Farmers have always been good for helping people out but sometimes you’re left for 20 or 30 minutes without contact, until people come to your rescue,’ the group said. Residents said that often times the fire brigade has been called, particularly by tourists who are unaware of the hazard.

‘Mostly in the winter months, people drive into it at night and if they don’t know the surroundings, they could be very easily into an eight or ten foot drop into water if you were to fall from the bridge. I’ve no doubt that it will happen here and it’s a safety hazard that has to be addressed by Wexford County Council,’ said Cllr Joe Sullivan, who spoke at the meeting.

‘We need a long term solution, as all community amenities associated with this area are on this road from schools, the GAA club, the church and the pub, that’s the heart of the community here.

As well as safety and security with regard to the bridge, the residents have noticed changes in wildlife habits, trees and vegetative life on the river.

Long term resident Pat Kinsella who remembers when swans would reside on the river, believes that returning the river to its original channel and securing the river there will see the return of wildlife, flora and fauna as it had been.

‘The farmers would dredge the river themselves when I was young, and even we’d offer to do it ourselves too,’ he said.

The group said that they are not looking for funding to address the issues, but Cllr Joe Sullivan suggested altering the course to the river could help to stop the flooding.

‘There is a lack of life on the river, it’s stagnant and of no addition to the area as a flowing river would offer more to tourists,’ he said. The residents expressed their fears about the future of the bridge, unsure as to whether its structure would survive another bad storm.

‘The Ahare bridge flooding causes delays and complications to our everyday routine and daily lives, we have no way of knowing when it will flood. We have fears of there being a fatality and there have been times when parents have had to carry children out of the car one by one, leaving others in the car to be towed out, it’s unacceptable. Living here, we have to be thinking about the river all the time, and sometimes after a flood the water can be there for two or three days. It’s an inconvenience to locals,’ the group said.

Cathy Lee, who lives in Castletown and is a volunteer with Coastwatch Ireland, said that although she understands theconcerns of the group that someone in the community has to speak for the river and on behalf of nature.

‘It’s a very emotive issue but we need an assessment of the situation from environmental engineers who have experience in this area to find the best solutions for dealing withthis. Simply dredging the river is not going to be the solution in the long term, it will damage the fish stock that’s in the river and won’t resolve the flooding.

‘Someone has to speak for the river, not to change the nature course of flow. The river has an important role as does the lagoon now down at the beach, it needs to be respected.

‘We live in a wetland environment and as a community we need to work together to preserve nature, maybe plant other trees that are more suited to bog land.

‘We need Wexford County Council to come on board to find a solution and address the safety issues associated with the bridge. I would suggest altering the height of the bridge and allowing the river to better flow underneath with pipage.

‘Local removal of hedge rows are contributing to the problem due to mineral run off into the river. I’m not here to criticise farmers, but we need to educate people to the value of these things and that in nature, everything has a consequence if we mess with it,’ she said.

Karin Dubsky, marine ecologist at Trinity College Dublin, also attended the meeting.

‘I fully understand the concerns of the local people that their road is being flooded more and more, but similar things are happening in many other parts of the country such as flash flooding, all due to climate change.

‘In the case of the Ahare river, the beautiful river flood plane that hasn’t been built on and it looks like something out of a picture  book. I would suggest doing something to the road, such as raising the road which has done in several areas.

‘Another option is small interventions at the river estuary, removing some sediment from time to time which can build up. I would be concerned about major engineering works that would be costly,’ she said.

Karin hopes that she will have a role to play in the Wexford County Council working group.

‘Something has to be done about the bridge, but I would be looking for that without interference with the river and a mix of volunteering and funding scheme to do a little bit when needed.

Hopefully Wexford County Council can put some funding to this,’ she said.

Every effort was made to obtain a response from Wexford County Council before the time of print.

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