A CORK County Council delegation is hoping to get Minister Conor Lenihan to overturn an Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) demand that the local authority doesn’t remove any silt from the river in Bandon.
County manager Martin Riordan and his mayor, Cllr Jim Daly, agreed to lead the delegation after they heard how worried residents and businesspeople in Bandon were about facing another winter without a number of anti-flood measures being in place.
While the Government has promised nearly €10 million for works to counteract flooding, it is expected these measures will not be fully in place for another three years.
In the interim, the council wants to remove silt build-up from the river, to prevent the type of scenes witnessed in the town on November 19 last, which inflicted millions of euro in damage.
Cllr Alan Coleman (FF) said businesses alone had spent more than €15m repairing their premises.
“Now they face the prospect of getting no insurance cover until the major flood works are completed. People want an interim measure; to dredge large deposits of gravel in the town, especially where the Bridewell and Bandon rivers meet. It would give some relief,” Mr Coleman said.
He pointed out that dredging of the rivers was last done in 1989 and proved a success. But he added that IFI was now standing in the way of flood alleviation measures, because it insisted no work be carried out on the river beds until it had received a consultant’s report on the total flood prevention plan.
“This [plan] will cost hundreds of thousands of euro and take at least 12 months to do. Dredging now will save the town from at least moderate flooding. I want the council to get onto Minister Conor Lenihan, who is in charge of IFI, and get this sorted out,” Mr Coleman said.
Cllr Veronica Neville (FG), who runs a solicitor’s practice in the town, agreed.
“People are absolutely afraid in their beds at night as the winter approaches. The council has been thwarted by the fisheries board. The ESB is laying a cable under the river, so why can’t we do work as well? I’m one of the people who reinvested in my building. My insurance company tell me they’ll look at it (the insurance) again in five years time, but until then I have no cover,” Ms Neville said.
She said that if businesses went under — with further flooding proving the straw broke the camel’s back on top of the recession — the town and county council would lose millions in rates.
Her party colleague, Cllr Kevin Murphy, said he didn’t believe removing silt and gravel from the river would affect fish spawning, as IFI had claimed.
The deadline for dredging silt is October 1, which the IFI says coincides with the start of the spawning season.
County engineer Noel O’Keeffe said he had secured funding for an early warning system which would provide ample time for traders to remove stock from their ground floors.
He said he had also put in for funding to create dedicated drains for storm water, which would be of “huge benefit” to the town.
County manager Martin Riordan said nobody would forget the trauma the people of Bandon endured last November.
He said he had told Mr O’Keeffe to do everything he could within the law, but the threat of legal action from IFI had prevented him from doing any dredging.
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