A DIGGER which was being used to clean the river in a town devastated by the November floods was itself swamped when water levels rose quickly after heavy rain.
The incident in the Bandon River in Co Cork on Monday highlights the difficulty faced by the town authorities who have commissioned a major report on flood protection measures.
Bandon was swamped by up to 10 feet of water last November when the river burst its banks. Dozens of businesses were destroyed and millions of euro of damage was caused.
The county council appointed a contractor recently to clean debris from the river – one of several small-scale flood mitigation projects which can be completed in the short-term before long-term and more expensive flood prevention works can be undertaken.
The digger was removing debris and blockages, particularly from around the bridge, in a stretch between the weir and McSwiney Quay when the river levels were low. But water levels rose quickly after heavy rain at the weekend, swamping the digger.
Local Cllr Alan Coleman (FG) said the incident highlights how quickly the situation can change.
“The whole scene transformed over the course of a few hours,” he said. This was as a result of heavy summer showers. Can you imagine the difficulty if we had this level of discharge on top of winter weather – it could cause severe problems.”
It emerged earlier this month that the South Western River Basic District wrote to the council directing some 400 tonnes of material be returned to the river after it claimed gravel below the allowed limit of the water level had been removed.
The SWRBD pointed out it is an offence under the Fisheries Act to disturb any riverbed, bank or shallow where the spawn or fry of salmon, trout or eels may be.
Cllr Coleman said the cleaning of the river is a highly emotive issue. But he said following a meeting with the minister with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) Martin Mansergh last Friday, he has given an assurance it is the OPW’s view the protection of livelihoods and property will take precedence.
“The council are appointing consultants to draw up a scheme for full flood protection for the town and we await its outcome.”
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