OPW to fast track construction of flood defences in Cork city

The construction of flood defences for one of the most flood-prone zones in Cork city centre is being fast-tracked amid criticism of ongoing delays on the Lower Lee flood relief scheme.

OPW to fast track construction of flood defences in Cork city

The Office of Public Works, which is overseeing the €60m flood defence scheme — the largest of its kind in the country — confirmed last night that it is working to decouple flood defence works in and around Morrison’s Island from the overall project, and hand responsibility for its delivery over to Cork City Council.

“OPW and Cork City Council have agreed in principle to bring forward the design and construction of the defences on Morrison’s Island which will largely deal with the tidal flooding problem which regularly affects the city,” a spokesperson for the OPW said.

“The flood defence works at Morrison’s Island will be carried out as part of the public realm project being taken forward by the city council for this area.

“Design work has already started on this and the council hope to bring these proposals forward to planning this summer with a contractor to be procured towards the end of the year which should enable works to be commenced in the first quarter of 2017.”

Further consultation on the preferred options for the overall Lower Lee scheme is due to take place in May, with construction work scheduled to start in late 2017.

Park Rd in Mallow, Co Cork, which remained flooded yesterday after Sunday night’s heavy rain.
Park Rd in Mallow, Co Cork, which remained flooded yesterday after Sunday night’s heavy rain.

The OPW confirmed that work will start downriver of the Inniscarra dam and will progress in phases westwards towards the city centre.

“By completing these works first, it will allow the use of interim optimised dam operating procedures and thereby significantly reduce overall flood risk,” said the spokesperson.

“There are likely to be four to five different phases in order to reduce disruption to the city and each phase may overlap with the preceding phase.”

It could be 2022 before the scheme is completed.

The news emerged yesterday as city centre traders breathed a sigh of relief after the city escaped major damage from two flooding events on Sunday.

Low pressure, a high spring tide, and easterly winds combined to drive a tidal surge up the harbour towards the city centre on Sunday morning, and again in the evening.

Water poured on to streets in low-lying areas such as Union Quay, Morrison’s Quay, South Terrace, Georges Quay, South Mall, Proby’s Quay, French’s Quay, Crosses Green, Sharman Crawford St, Wandesford Quay, and Lavitts Quay.

The flooding around South Terrace was exacerbated by heavy rainfall and surface water run-off.

City centre traders criticised the slow progress on the delivery of flood defences seven years on from the devastating 2009 flood.

Lawrence Owens, the chief executive of Cork Business Association, said they will ramp up pressure on the OPW and elected public representatives to deliver a scheme soon.

“We have to continue to lobby, and raise the ante to ensure the works are delivered,” he said, adding that in the urgency to deliver flood defences, the quick and easy option of “throwing up concrete walls” must be avoided.

“It must be done sensitively,” he said. “Flood defences in the city must be done in an aesthetically pleasing way, like what was done in Waterford. The river must still be part of the fabric of our city.”

Mr Owens said the issue of reinsurance will then have to be addressed, with insurers being compelled to provide insurance to uninsured businesses who will benefit from the flood defences.

The yacht Callisto lying against the wall at Whitepoint in Cobh, Co Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
The yacht Callisto lying against the wall at Whitepoint in Cobh, Co Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is monitoring the trawler which ran aground on rocks at the mouth to Kinsale harbour over the weekend.

Portuguese fishermen were saved by the crew of Kinsale RNLI during a dramatic rescue in stormy conditions on Sunday.

It is believed that fishing nets fouled the prop of the 20m beamer trawler, the MFV Sean Anthony, just before 6pm, before it was blown towards the rocks at Moneypoint.

The RNLI released video footage of the rescue, which showed the fishermen jumping from their stricken vessel and swimming to the lifeboat.

Conditions in Kinsale yesterday stood in stark contrast to the conditions in the area on Sunday.

The ship, which was still stuck fast on the rocks, had taken a severe pounding overnight, and had developed a hole in its hull.

The ship’s owners are understood to be liaising with their insurers and a salvage company in a bid to arrange for the removal of the wreck.

The Coast Guard will have to clear any proposed salvage plan and said the pollution risk is low.

What’s the plan?

- Elaine O’Sullivan

Cork city council and the Government must deliver on flood defences for Cork City.

This weekend we saw a near-catastrophic miss for the city centre as the River Lee overflowed onto streets.

But the silence from our pathetic city council on Twitter was deafening.

It is high time some of its €151m budget and 6,500 staff get a living pulse into its communications and services.

I run a legal practice on South Terrace which suffered minor flooding on Sunday and the service by the local authority was laughable to say the least.

Water was flowing over the bridge at the College of Commerce and on to South Terrace for half an hour before the road was closed.

We contacted Anglesea Street Garda Station to highlight our concern and 15 minutes later a council crew casually arrived and closed the road just before the expected high tide. Where is the co-ordinated emergency action planning here?

What’s worse is that there was no-one there to police it.

Traffic continued to travel along the street after closure signs had been erected. Half an hour later, Bus Éireann drivers continued to ignore the road closure.

Cork City suffered a catastrophic flood in 2009 and three more floods that I recall in recent years, and work has not begun yet on a flood defence scheme.

Funding has been allocated to trophy projects like the events centre and a new GAA stadium that may fill once a year. This is farcical.

Our city is the daily fulcrum of our regional economy and it cannot continue to operate with the ongoing threat of floods.

Cork needs a flood defence scheme urgently and Cork needs to unite publicly like towns such as Fermoy, Bandon, and Skibbereen to make political figures accountable to deliver.

The flood defence project needs to be fast-tracked or we will have another catastrophic flooding disaster on our doorstep.

Elaine O’Sullivan is a principal at O’Sullivan Whelan Solicitors, on South Terrace, Cork.

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