Long term flood prevention must be prioritised for Cork – Buttimer

Thursday, February 20th 2014

  • Long term flood prevention plan to protect Cork must be prioritised.
  • Commitment of funding for the project by Minister of State at the OPW, Brian Hayes TD.

In the last few weeks, Cork has again been devastated by flooding, with many businesses and homes in the heart of our city badly affected.  Regrettably, the reaction to the 2009 floods in Cork did not prioritise a long term plan to protect our city.  While criticism of the length of time it is taking to implement a flood defence scheme is legitimate, it is also important to understand that the flood situation in Cork is not straightforward.  Progressing a scheme for the city involves complex and detailed preparations to ensure that the best possible long term solution is found.

The engagement of Minister Hayes is finally bringing about progress.  He said that up to €100 million will be made available to carry out flood protection work for Cork.  I welcome that announcement.  He also stated that a possible starting date for the three-year project will be in 2015.  In the meantime, a forum between the OPW, city council and local businesses is being set up to explore interim measures that can help to alleviate the problem.  It is a pity that it will take three years to get this done but I welcome the Minister of State’s initiative and his commitment to the project.

Since the widespread floods of 2009, we have not yet seen the protection of Cork city being prioritised.  We accept that the city was built on a marsh but today we have a duty of care to protect homeowners, families and city centre businesses.  Small businesses are the lifeblood of Cork’s local economy, unfortunately these have been the hardest hit by the floods.  Since 2009 flooding in Cork has cost an estimated €100 million, but the city remains exposed.  Businesses remain at risk and homes remain vulnerable.

It is no wonder people become frustrated and disenchanted with politics and bureaucracy when, five years after the flood in 2009, we are only now getting to the end of the process.  The President of Cork Chamber of Commerce, Ms Gillian Keating, voiced the frustration of many businesses on local radio.  She spoke about the lack of action and the frustration of business people.  I do not blame business people for speaking out.  The protection of the country’s second city must be prioritised.  No economy can thrive when its business centre is subject to persistent and regular flooding.  The people of Cork need the remedial works to be prioritised and they demand it.  They must finally be given some hope that a long-term solution will be delivered, not promised.

While the development of the scheme must be prioritised and fast-tracked where possible, there must also be an immediate focus on interim measures.  The local forum involving the OPW must play a central role in delivering adequate interim protection.  This body must get to work as soon as possible and without delay to provide ongoing assistance to those most at risk in Cork city, whether in Blackpool, Douglas or Togher, and, in particular, in the city centre.  Let us expedite the situation so that we can end uncertainty and take away the fear people experience when they see a flood warning for Cork.

Posted under Cork, Cork City, Development, Douglas, Economic, Floods, National Work

Parliamentary Question: Flood Prevention Strategy

Question to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Mr. Brendan Howlin, TD)

To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the measures being taken by the Office of Public Works to put in place flood alleviation measures at Togher County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter- Jerry Buttimer.

For WRITTEN response on Wednesday, 29th January, 2014

REPLY

A Flood Relief Scheme for Douglas and Togher is currently being advanced by Cork County Council with funding to be provided by Office of Public Works (OPW). It is understood that the Council has signed a contract for consultants in the last two weeks to take the development of a scheme forward through design, planning and construction.While it is expected that a new culvert will be the preferred option for Togher, the consultants will be expected to validate outputs to date from the Lower Lee Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Study. The Togher proposal, along with the emerging preferred scheme for Douglas, is expected to be brought forward to public consultation before the end of 2014, either though the planning process or the Arterial Drainage Acts.If such a scheme is well received, then it will be followed by detailed design, procurement of a works contractor and construction. OPW has made provision for the costs of a scheme in its multi-annual budget profiles, but such funding will be subject to review depending on actual budget allocations.

Posted under Cork City, Floods, Parliamentary Questions, Public Expenditure & Reform

Full explanation of events that led to Cork flooding needed

Culvert and grate for Ballybrack Stream must be examined

Speaking in the Dáil this evening (Tuesday) on Topical Issues, Fine Gael Cork South Central TD, Jerry Buttimer, called for a full and honest explanation of the sequence of events which led to flooding in Douglas, which devastated homes and businesses.

“In the early hours of last Thursday morning, businesses and homes in Douglas village were devastated by uncharacteristic flooding.  Homes on St. Columba’s Terrace and St. Patrick’s Terrace were flooded and businesses in the village, in the shopping centre and in Douglas West suffered tremendous damage.

“In the Dáil today I raised the serious concerns of the residents and business people in Douglas with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD.  Those who are dealing with the aftermath of the flooding deserve a full and honest explanation of the events which led to the devastation. When a full explanation is received it will become clear exactly what caused the flooding.

“The issue of the culvert is central to the flooding and there are a lot of questions which need to be answered.  Last year, the County Council spent hundreds of thousands of euros on a culvert and grate for Ballybrack Stream; we need to know if both functioned as planned.  Locally, there are fears that the proximity of the grate to the culvert and the infrequent clearing of the stream contributed to the flooding.  These concerns need to be addressed.

“The aftermath of the flooding leaves many issues for local residents. They are faced with rectifying the damage to their homes and with making insurance claims.  Too often insurance companies are less than cooperative, failing to promptly deal with claims and pay out money which is rightly due to those affected.  The insurance industry needs to be brought to task to ensure it looks after their customers in their hour of need.

“The Environment Minister has recognised the impact of the flooding on residents and businesses.  He confirmed that he will specifically ask to the have issue of the culvert investigated as part of the report which he has requested from Cork County and City Councils.

“In the Minister’s reply to me he said that the Council had checked drainage systems and had staff on stand-by, following weather warnings last Wednesday. That these steps failed to prevent damage to homes and businesses raises questions about the effectiveness of the Council’s emergency plan for dealing with floods.

“People affected by last week’s flooding deserve an immediate response. The Minister confirmed that Government Departments and State agencies are available to assist people in Douglas. The Department of Social Protection is available for once off payments and exceptional needs.  Also the Department of Finance will liaise with financial institutions asking them to provide as much assistance as possible to those affected.

“The fears and nervousness of residents and business people must be allayed.  They need an explanation and reassurance that steps will be taken to prevent a repeat of last week’s flooding.”

Posted under Douglas, Environment, Floods