Business people and householders may have differing views on Cork City’s €50m flood defence plans, but they’re united in one respect — the Government must ensure insurance companies offer all flood victims renewed cover once the works are completed.
They were all singing from the same hymn sheet yesterday as the plans went on display at City Hall.
Jer Buckley, chairman of the Blackpool Flood Committee, said millions of euro of taxpayers’ money was going into the project and it was imperative the Government “move to ensure insurance companies aren’t allowed to continue to cherry pick who they will and won’t cover”.
Mr Buckley said in France, Denmark and Spain, it is illegal for insurance companies not to offer renewal cover to flood victims and the same should apply here.
“The Government have to come down hard on insurance companies if they continue to refuse cover once the works are complete. If the insurance companies continue with adverse selection, the Government can refuse to renew their licence.”
Mr Buckley said his organisation would study the plans in detail, but urged that work be undertaken in Blackpool immediately as it was a smaller project than the overall city defence plan and different because the area “is more susceptible to frequent flash flooding”.
James O’Sullivan, director of Cork Business Association, echoed his call for a harder line on insurance companies.
He said many of his organisation’s 130 members didn’t have flood cover any more and the Government should introduce legislation to ensure they got it back once the works are fully completed by 2020.
However, Mr O’Sullivan said he would like to see the project finished quicker. “Many of the businesses are struggling in the current economic climate and another major flood would wipe a lot of them out,” he said.
Paul Kavanagh, managing director of South Mall-based brokers McCarthy Insurance Group said the building was flooded twice. While “fairly happy with the plans”, he had one major concern. They’d put up flood barriers which worked the last time, but sewerage had blown up into the building through the drains.
“Some system of non-return valves has to be introduced,” Mr Kavanagh said.
Frances O’Callaghan, who lives near the Inniscarra Bar, and whose house was flooded in 2009, said she also believed there was a “moral obligation” on insurance companies to renew premiums when the work is completed.
She said she had a concern that a 1.2 metre high embankment being built near here home wouldn’t be enough to hold back a major flood and it should be “trebled in height”.
Former Green Party TD Dan Boyle is concerned the city centre “would be caged with walls” and worried that larger engineering solutions aren’t being considered, especially the erection of a barrage in the lower harbour.
“This is a stop gap solution. With global warming, the walls will have to get higher and higher as the flood levels keep increasing.”
OPW engineer Ezra MacManamon said low lying agricultural land to the east of the Inniscarra Dam would be deliberately flooded two to three days in advance of a severe weather warning to protect the city.
This would leave capacity in the dam for torrential downpours which, if needed, would be slowly released into what will effectively become a massive artificial pond.
“This would allow the water to pass down through the city at a safe rate,” Mr MacManamon said.
However, according to Arthur Sobey, a member of the Lee Salmon Anglers, an early warning system for water releases needs to be improved, otherwise someone might drown.
“At present, there’s a siren which goes off at the Inniscarra Dam, but you can’t really hear it much downstream. Some text alert system should be put in place. It’s a health and safety issue,” Mr Sobey said.
The OPW plans to put a hydraulic gate in place near the Kingsley Hotel which will prevent too much water going down the southern channel into the heart of the city’s commercial centre.
There is more capacity in the northern channel and diverting water into it will also reduce the need for excessively high walled defences in the city centre.
The flood defence project will remain on public display in City Hall until next Tuesday. It can be downloaded from http://www.lowerleefrs.ie and the OPW is encouraging as many people as possible to make their observations known to them.
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