The Office of Public Works (OPW) has unveiled a €20m flood relief plan which will protect around 90 homes and businesses in two adjoining villages in mid-Cork.

People living in Ballymakeera and Ballyvourney were invited to the local Abbey Hotel yesterday to see the OPW’s preferred solution to prevent flooding which will involve dredging and the widening of the River Sullane, erecting earth banks and protective walls, rock armour and providing new culverts.

OPW chartered engineer Ezra MacManamon said the capital cost of the project would be in the region of €11m. However, when design fees, compensation for disruption caused to land-owners during the construction phase and maintenance during the scheme’s 50-year life expectancy are taken into account, it will cost in the region of €20m.

The villages, located on the main Cork-Killarney route, have been flooded on numerous occasions, including in 2009 and 2015. Floods have caused the main road to be closed on occasions.

“Around 70 homes and 20 businesses are at risk of flooding in the area, including a number of factories and many of these properties have been flooded before,” Mr MacManamon said.

Part of the river will be straightened and to achieve that process, the OPW will have to remove the EU-protected Freshwater Pearl Mussel species which is associated with it.

Mr MacManamon said that surveys had already been carried out on the species and approval had been agreed in principle with the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) to relocate the mussels.

He said it wasn’t practical to return them to the river due to maintenance works to be undertaken in the coming years.

Instead, once the project is finalised the OPW will have to apply for a licence from the NPWS to “relocate them to another suitable site”.

The OPW has invited locals to fill out forms with their views on the current plan.

It is expected the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment will be completed this autumn and the detailed design ready by 2019.

“We estimate it will take two to three years to complete,” said Mr MacManamon. “A lot of work has to be done in the river and this can only be undertaken during the summer months.

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