Concern has been expressed at a decision by the OPW not to dredge a river in a flood-hit town ahead of winter.
The OPW has written to Cork County Council informing it that it does not intend to get its contractor to start dredging the river in Bandon because it does not think it will have a positive impact on flood prevention.
The move has been strongly criticised by Senator Tim Lombard, who said the town has been flooded 10 times in the past 40 years, nearly always during the winter months.
Mr Lombard has written to the OPW’s junior minister Sean Canney appealing for him to intervene as fisheries legislation prevents dredging of rivers after the end of September.
Previous floods have caused millions of euro worth of damage, especially to local businesses, most of whom no longer have insurance cover.
The town centre was deluged again last December.
“Flooding has become a recurring issue around Bandon over the past 40 years, and it is for this reason that an extensive flood relief scheme was created. The proposed works include dredging of the river bed and construction of new flood defences to contain flood water within the Bandon and Bridewell River as well as the Mill Stream,” said Mr Lombard.
“One of the key aspects of this proposal was deepening areas of the existing river bed and dredging approximately 150,000 cubic metres of material from the Bandon river.”
Due to environmental concerns the dredging of the river is only authorised from May through to September.
Mr Lombard said that because of the urgency of the situation if he did not get a satisfactory reply from Mr Canney he would ask that he be called into the Seanad to explain the situation and ensure that an extension of the September deadline will be sought.
“If this isn’t sorted out it will leave businesses and householders to battle through another potentially flood-ridden winter without the proposed defences in place. This is of huge concern to the people of Bandon. The potential year-long delay in flood relief implementation through dredging would be extremely detrimental to the town,” said Mr Lombard.
Cork County Council’s county engineer, David Keane, confirmed that the local authority had received a letter from the OPW saying that it would not be carrying out temporary dredging works.
Mr Keane said the OPW did not think this would have a positive impact on reducing flood risk.
The council itself has carried out dredging works in the river for the past three years, always in September.
It recently installed non-return valves and built embankments in some vulnerable areas.
“It is clear to all to see that we need dredging carried out at certain pinch points on the river, such as by the main bridge and the weir,” Mr Lombard added.
Cllr Alan Coleman also expressed concern about non-dredging before the onset of winter.
Like Mr Lombard he said residents would have more sleepless nights when it rains and everything should be done to ensure there is no repeat of last year’s flooding.
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