What you see is what you’ll get - that was the pledge from the Office of Public Works (OPW) to the people of Cork as public reaction to its latest Lower Lee flood defence designs continued.
Senior OPW engineer, Ezra McMenamin, insisted that the state agency with responsibility for flood protection has taken great care to ensure that the artists’ impressions it published this week are a fair and accurate representation of what will be delivered on the ground as part of the €140m project.
It said it hopes to have visuals for the flood defence proposals at other sensitive locations, including North Mall, Grenville Place and Pope’s Quay, ready for publication within three months.
And it said it hopes to have all the required information on the entire scheme - the single largest investment in flood defences in the history of the state - ready for submission to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe for confirmation under the Arterial Drainage Act process within the next six months.
Pending the tender process, and in the absence of any legal challenge, it is hoped that work could start first on the western fringes of the city in 2021, and be delivered in phases over five years.
The agency published new design images this week which, it said, have been influenced by concerns expressed during the public consultation phases.
It has opted to retain river walks and views, and blend flood defences into landscaping at the Lee Fields and Fitzgerald’s Park, and create new civic spaces at Ferry Walk, Albert Quay and Lapp’s Quay.
It is retaining the historic railings along Sullivan’s Quay and North Mall and opting to use demountable flood barriers.
But cyclists have express concerns about images which show dedicated bike lanes on Sullivan’s Quay and Kyrl’s Quay being subsumed into shared-space footpaths.
The Save Cork City campaign group, which is opposed to the overall approach, said the new designs have changed none of the fundamental flaws, and in some cases, have made things more dangerous.
“The use of demountable floodwalls greatly increases the possibility of a catastrophic flood event based on human error,” SCC said.
“What OPW are now doing to try to sell their scheme is the equivalent of moving the deck chairs on the Titanic.
“OPW are continuing to spend on propaganda designed to highlight apparent advantages of their scheme while hiding the serious flaws.
“The scheme relies on pumps and containment of floodwaters in its essence, and is highly susceptible to failure by human or mechanical error.”
They also said it is almost impossible to control the city’s groundwater and insisted again that a tidal barrier is required.
But the OPW said a tidal barrier, which it has costed at over €1bn, would not tackle fluvial flood risk, would cost more than €1bn and is not the right solution now.
Arup engineer, Ken Leahy, said while the current scheme has a design life-span of up to 50-years, it has factored in various sea-level rise scenarios to ensure a tidal barrier could be part of the solution long-term.