15-point plan to cut Cork town’s flood risk

A 15-POINT plan has been put forward to reduce the risk of flooding and related-damage in a high-risk west Cork town.

The proposals emerge in an independent report into flood risk management in Bandon.

The report concluded inappropriate development, poor engineering and the removal of both the town’s historic wall, along with a vital flood sink, all contributed to last November’s flood devastation in the town.

It has been presented in recent days to an all-party Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The plan suggests dykes be built to create a buffer zone and retain flood waters at certain points of the town centre river. It also urges a flood embankment at Riverview Shopping Centre should be rebuilt and a demountable flood barrier created at the historic town wall at Weir Street and McSweeney Quay.

The report was drawn up by local environmental consultant Declan Waugh, a member of Bandon Flood Task Group and Cork County Council’s Strategic Policy Planning committee.

His report also claims that changes to land use during the Celtic Tiger years “had a dramatic impact” on the town’s ability to retain water and that the embankments built at Riverview Shopping Centre failed to contain the deluge.

The study also found that the angle at which the Bridewell River flowed into the River Bandon, coupled with physical restrictions in the area, reduced the amount of water that could flow into the Bandon river. This led to the waters backing up along the river embankment walls along Market Quay causing localised flooding at Oliver Plunkett Street, Market Quay, Pearse Street and Market Lane.

Geomorphic studies also showed that permanent changes were made to the River Bandon channel following the flooding.

Sections of the river bank were eroded and gravel was transported and deposited further along the riverbed during the flood itself.

The development of these gravel beds during the flooding reduced the flow of the water through the Bandon Bridge arches and “ultimately raised floodwater levels” from the Bandon and Bridewell.

According to Mr Waugh, the flood event had a significant impact on fisheries in the River Bandon.

“During the floods, rearing fish in the river would have been displaced to river margins and off-channel areas or washed to sea. Observations from visual inspection of the river identified areas where spawning habitat was inundated, covered with debris, or buried in sediment. At other locations where scouring may have occurred, eggs in the gravel would have been washed away or buried,” he said.

The report, commissioned by and paid for by Mr Waugh himself for the Bandon Working Together marketing group, highlighted how even though the removal of gravel beds is a “sensitive environmental practice”, it could be undertaken provided the project complies with best practice guidelines.

The report presents a 15-point action plan to reduce flood risk in the town including reduction of damage risk, reduction of flood water levels, increased flood awareness and improvement of flood information.

The report has been submitted to Minister for the Environment John Gormley, Cork county manager Martin Riordan, county engineer Noel O’Keeffe, the OPW’s head of flood relief and risk management Mark Adamson, the South Western Fisheries Board, the all-party Oireachtas members of the Select Committee on Environment, Bandon Town Council together with ministers of state Dr Martin Mansergh, Conor Lenihan, Ciarán Cuffe and Sean Connick.

- The report is available to view at enviro.ie or partnershipforchange.ie.

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