An estimated €1m of repairs to an historic weir which collapsed five years ago could be carried out as part of the largest flood defence scheme in the history of the state.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) could be set to intervene in the long-running saga surrounding the damaged weir in the Regional Park in Ballincollig.
Patrick O’Donovan, the Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, has asked his officials to examine whether the badly-needed repairs could be done in association with works linked to the proposed €150m Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme (LLFRS).
“While there are no hydraulic benefits to the scheme from the weir, the OPW has agreed to assess the feasibility of including any proposed works on the weir into the construction contract for the LLFRS,” he said.
“The nature of any such works will be subject to an assessment of planning, structural, fisheries’ and cultural heritage considerations, which the LLFRS Steering Group has asked the consultants for the OPW to review.”
He was speaking during a visit to the regional park in Ballincollig to view the damage first-hand.
Mr O’Donovan told local public representatives and city officials that such structures are the responsibility of local authorities, and not the OPW.
But he said given that flood defence works associated with the LLFRS will run from Ballincollig to the city, it made sense to examine the repairs in the context of the flood defence scheme.
However, he stressed that no final decision has been made on that yet.
The weir was built in 1795 to provide a head of water for a network of canals associated with the manufacture of gunpowder in the adjoining Royal Gunpowder Mills complex.
A section of the weir collapsed in December 2014 when Ballincollig was within the jurisdiction of Cork County Council.
OPW Minister Patrick O’Donovan visiting the damaged weir in #Ballincollig #Cork with OPW and city officials and local public reps. He says his dept will examine what repairs are possible as part of the Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme pic.twitter.com/fEf89y3Z6J— Eoin English (@EoinBearla) June 22, 2021
Since 2019, it has been under the jurisdiction of Cork City Council though, after the city boundary was extended.
The damage has worsened over the years and the delay in repairs has seen cost estimates for the works soar from around €250,000 five years ago to over €1m.
Lord Mayor, Cllr Colm Kelleher, said it was important that the minister got to see for himself the extent of the damage.
“The minister said the OPW is in this for the long haul, and between the OPW, the minister and City Hall, we are on top of this and hopefully we will get it sorted soon,” he said.
Fine Gael councillors Derry Canty and Garret Kelleher described the minister’s commitment as a “positive step”.
“Restoration of the weir will result in a safer park, and open up the prospect of it, and the river, becoming an even more attractive destination, and it will breathe new life into the canals,” Mr Kelleher said.
Fianna Fáil TD Aindreas Moynihan said funding for the repairs needs to be delivered one way or the other.
“This is about so much more than the weir - it’s about the park and the canal experience. We need this to be delivered one way or the other. We need to see progress on this,” he said.