Cork flood defence project delays blamed on forecasting system

Lengthy delays in the design of Cork’s massive flood defence project have been blamed on the development of a complex flood forecasting system linked to discharges from the Inniscarra dams.

But the development of the forecasting system will mean more certainty to the physical defence proposals which will be brought forward for public consultation later this year, the Office of Public Works (OPW) said. The Irish Examiner revealed on Tuesday that flood defence work in the Morrison’s Island area of the city was being fast-tracked to begin next year.

Proposals to deal with tidal flooding there should be ready for public consultation this summer, and they will be implemented as part of a public realm project being undertaken by Cork City Council. Flood defence work in the Blackpool area has already been fast-tracked.

However, the OPW, overseeing the €60m Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme — the largest flood defence project in the history of the state — confirmed work on the rest of the scheme was due to start late next year, will be delivered in phases, and could take up to five years to complete.

The OPW said the design of the full flood defence project was dependent on the forecasting system. “It was originally intended to develop the design of the defences concurrently with the development of the flood forecasting system,” the OPW said.

“However, it became evident as design work progressed that completion of the full development of the forecasting system would be required before the design of the defences could be progressed to outline design stage. Without the full design of the forecasting system it was clear that there would be too much uncertainty regarding the amount and height of defences, all of which would impact significantly on cost.”

As a result, the forecasting system, which required the cooperation of key stakeholders such as the ESB, as operators of the dams, and Cork City Council, which will operate the flood forecasting system, was advanced to full design stage.

The OPW said it was very complex to develop and required extensive discussion. The spokesperson also confirmed feedback, from the OPW’s first round of consultation of the entire range of proposed flood defences, had been analysed and was being taken into account in the scheme’s design, nearing completion.

It is expected the final design proposals, which will include raised embankments in some areas and walls in others, will be put on public display before the year end.

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