Council strategy to prevent future flooding urgedBy Sean O’Riordan - Tuesday, July 10, 2012
OVER 150 houses and some 200 commercial properties were severely damaged in Co Cork during recent flooding.
The extent of the damage, which was outlined in a report delivered by county manager Martin Riordan yesterday, was confined mainly to the Douglas, Clonakilty and Glanmire areas — places he said where such events had not been expected.
It is estimated over 70 homes and 100 commercial premises were damaged by floods in the Clonakilty area, along with 36 roads and 16 bridges/culverts.
In nearby Ballinascarthy, a further 18 properties were flooded and some were also flooded in Rathbarry.
The toll in Douglas was 12 houses, 100 commercial properties, a community hall and medical centre.
In Glanmire, nearly all of the 49 houses in the Meadowbrook Estate were damaged, and some homes were also flooded in nearby Sallybrook.
Ten commercial properties were also damaged in Glanmire’s Hazelwood Shopping Centre, including the county council-run library.
Mr Riordan told a council meeting that areas along rivers which he would have expected not to flood did as more than 50mm of rain fell on June 28.
The manager said that some serious issues had to be addressed quickly to ensure the flood-hit areas were not damaged again and that despite not yet having received financial aid from the Government, he had initiated flood prevention works in the county.
Mr Riordan said the Government should also set up a humanitarian fund for those hit by floods in Cork as it had done for people in Dublin last year.
A number of councillors agreed with Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) when he said the county council and Government "need to go back to basics and common sense".
Mr Hurley said an elderly man he had spoken to remembered as a child being able to walk under a bridge, which his children could not do today because it was always full of water and silt.
"Arterial drainage is not working any more," Mr Hurley said.
Cllr Donal O’Rourke (FF) said that for 20 years the people of his hometown of Clonakilty had been trying to get the OPW to address flooding issues.
"I joined this council in 1999 and back then there was just occasional tidal flooding in the town, but over years the situation has got drastically worse," Mr O’Rourke said.
Many other councillors supported his observation that the Inland Fisheries had too much power and could prevent people from dredging rivers, which could prevent flooding.
"We give precedence to spawning beds etc.
"But we have people whose properties have been destroyed. Let’s get our priorities right," he said.
He also suggested the council invoke the 1970 Local Government Rates Act to reduce or stop collecting rates from people who owned flood-damaged businesses.
Mr Riordan said he was willing to talk to businesses on an individual basis to see if compromises could be reached on the amount of rates they pay.
Cllr Deirdre Forde (FG) claimed flooding in Douglas has been caused by years of "over development" and a lack of proper drainage.
"People are very sour about this, especially businesses who’ve provided a huge amount of rates to council and got very little back."
However, she did thank Mr Riordan for the gesture of indefinitely suspending pay parking in Douglas.
Cllr Tim Lombard (FG) said the council would have to work with those affected to ensure flood defences were adequate enough for insurance companies.
His party colleague, Cllr John O’Sullivan, said "people need money today and tomorrow, not next Christmas. We need to get emergency funding to people in need now".
Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) received backing from all parties when his motion calling for emergency aid was passed.
As a result the council will call on the Taoiseach, and ministers in charge of the environment and OPW, to release funding as soon as possible.
"We must request emergency funding to address economic hardships of residents and businesses. We should also have funding for adequate staffing for immediate infrastructural repairs and the creation of a strategy to prevent flooding in the county," Mr Murphy said.
Cllr Paula Desmond (Lab) claimed mud and debris on "grating screens" prevent flood water from entering culverts and pointed out that many businesses in the area would not reopen if they could not in future get flood insurance.
Cllr Alan Coleman (FF) said he had concerns that the council had not responded as quickly as it could have to the flooding.
Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) said the new culverting system had been installed in Douglas just 12 months ago at a cost of €300,000.
"It [the culvert] was supposed to deal with a one in 1,000 year [flood] event," he said. "But it didn’t."
He also claimed that the alarm was raised at 1am, yet it was not until four hours later that a digger arrived in Douglas to help, and that digger belonged to a private company.
Mr Riordan said that a council-owned digger also arrived at the same time.
Douglas-based Cllr David Boyle (Ind) said the council should have immediately cleared debris from the blocked grates over the culvert. "Once the trash screen was cleared the flooding subsided," he said.
"A week after the flood, the [traffic] warden was issuing parking fines."
The county manager acknowledged that was unfortunate.
Cllr Pat Burton (FG) said Glanmire had suffered unprecedented flooding in just two hours. He defended council staff and accused Mr Boyle of seeking to grab headlines.
Mr Burton said insurance companies were trying to opt out of paying some people and said they must face up to their responsibilities.
Mr Riordan said "the insurance industry has a role to insurance against risk, and risk happens".
"If fishery bodies refuse to let people work on [dredging] rivers they must take the responsibility as well," Mr Burton said.
Cllr Noel Costello (Lab) maintained the flooding in Meadowbrook, Glanmire was caused because two of five arches at a nearby bridge were blocked.
He said the council should help people with insurance claims.
Mr Riordan also said he would make it the council’s priority to ensure that humanitarian assistance was provided to people who needed it and make sure that nobody "would fall between the cracks".
He said he would provide councillors with a detailed update when they again meet in County Hall in two weeks’ time.