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Calls for ESB Executive resignations over decommissioning of Derrybrien Windfarm

With such wastage it’s time to make the ESB accountable for their handling of this.

Windfarm being decommissioned (Source Wind Europe)

On 16th March 2022, the ESB has confirmed that, after a refusal by An Bord Pleánala to get substitute consent planning, they will be decommissioning the windfarm at Derrybrien.   This impact of this has sent a shock wave across the ‘green planning’ sector and has left a lot of people outraged at the waste and their growing ESB Bills.   The South Galway Flood relief committee is asking for those accountable to be held responsible this unmitigated disaster.

It should never have gotten to this!

Many people have expressed the opinion about can’t we just leave them up but that ship sailed a long time ago.  An Bord Pleanala rejected an application by the ESB for substitute consent effectively removing any remaining avenue the ESB could use to avoid the Windfarm being tagged as an ‘Unauthorized development’. 

Since the first diggers tore into the mountain high-ground in 2003, it became an unauthorized development.  When the subsequent landslide happened in October that year, it should have been stopped.  They shouldn’t have dug tens of kilometres of new drains (some 2-3m wide and 2-3m deep) , again unauthorised.   The ESB refused,  point-blank, to engage in any progressive way with local community concerns from Derrybrien Action group and the South Galway Flood Relief Committee. 

The only option that was left to the community was to go to Europe to get support on the situation.

The extraordinary fines of €17,845,7779 (as of this morning)  as due to ESB’s delaying tactics, the loss of ESB generation for the lifetime of the Windfarm (est €50+ million), the environmental disaster that it is, all rest 100% on the shoulders of the ESB Executive team.

If the ESB had engaged and addressed concerns, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Decommissioning

Windfarms have a typical lifespan for 20 years but that can be extended by another few years. This would mean that the decommissioning would be happening anyway from 2025 onward. However the ESB in its substitute consent application indicated a timeframe of 2040 so may have had other things in mind including r-epowering the windfarm. This means the ESB will incur significant losses of earnings by early decommissioning.

This judgement and result though harsh will save communities in the long run as it clarifies what can be at stake by taking shortcuts. This should be a wakeup call to any ‘Green Projects’ including Windfarms, forestry, Biogas plants and solar farms.

Paying the Price

I’ve stated before that there are no winners in this scenario- but,  I might be wrong here.  I have a suspicion that the ESB Executive team might be in fact the winners in this while the rest of us paying the price.

The South Galway communities have paid the price (and continue to pay the price) of the impact on the windfarm. In July last year the ESB put up notices effectively halting local turf cutting on the mountain due to peat instability, another slap in the face, without any notice/consultation.   The lowering of water tables and extensive draining continues to increase the flood risk for South Galway.  It’s not just the communities that has paid the price, the environment has also paid a heavy price with the landslide destroying water life throughout the catchment and increasing the silting in the underground network.

The Irish taxpayer (you and me) is also paying a price – We will be forking out close to €20 million in EU fines,  and with adding cost of early decommissioning (~€10 million loss/year), consultants fees, resolution of Turbary rights, we could be talking about a total of taxpayer bill of well over €70 million.

When the EU slammed a court order on Ireland in 2012, the then ESB Boss, Padraig McManus,  took home  €700,000 in pay that year.  While wages were attempted to be capped the ESB still has some of the highest paid execs in the public service, with massive bonuses.   So, I suspect that for the past year 2-3 years while the EU Fines started costing me and you money,  the ESB executives have enjoyed substantially big bonuses.   In the meantime our ESB Bills have been rising and are now the highest in Europe. 

Therefore based on the continued impact on our communities, the significant cost to the taxpayer, the incredible damage to the ESB’s reputation, we are calling for the resignation of ESB Chief Executives, Paddy Hayes and Deputy Chief Executive Jerry O’ Sullivan.  

The ESB Executive team are fully accountable and must take responsibility here – they simply can’t remain the winners in this scenario.

David Murray, Chair, South Galway Flood Relief Committee

[I’d appreciate it if you could share. ]

References :

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Derrybrien Windfarm fines pass €15 million mark with no end in sight

Fines have passed the €15 million mark and a recent EC report finds a long-awaited ESB (remedial) environmental Impact assessment lacking. 

The ESB Is once again under the spotlight as the Derrybrien Windfarm resolution has been dealt another blow in the past week. As fines have passed the €15 million mark and a recent independent EC report has found that the long promised ESBs remedial environmental Impact assessment (rEIAR) lacking, and in some cases questions if the rEIAR is itself fit for purpose.

The report recommends that ‘further information is provided before the consenting authority (An Bord Pleanála) can make an informed decision’ . This could signal some more serious and costly delays in the resolution of this matter.

Quick Background/Timeline

  • 2003 : The Derrybrien wind farm was regarded as one of the largest in the EU when a landslide occurred during its construction in October 2003 by an ESB subsidiary, Hibernian Wind Power. 
  • In 2008, the EU’s Court of Justice criticised the State and ordered that the situation be addressed. It found Ireland had failed to properly assess the environmental effects the development would have on the locality.  But despite the ruling, no action was taken to rectify the situation.
  • In 2019, almost after 11 years, Ireland was €5 million for failing to carry out an EU court-ordered environmental impact assessment on a 70-turbine windfarm at Derrybrien, Co Galway with an additional €15,000 daily fine. 
  • In August 2020, after 11 years of stalemate, the ESB/Gort Windfarms  released a remedial )Environment Impact Assessment Report (rEIAR) (2640 Pages) and an Natura Impact Assessment (288 pages)

This report was assessed by local groups and individuals and in the past few weeks the European Commission release a report they commissioned from ARCADIS, consulting firm. The overall objective of the EC Technical assessment has been to assess if the ESB’s EIA remedial process has fairly assessed the key impacts over time and addressed appropriately the need for remediation and compensation measures.

Technical Assessment findings

The technical assessment conclusions state :

“Based on the technical review of the rEIAR against the requirements of the EIA Directive, it is recommended that further information is provided before the consenting authority can make an informed decision on this application. “

While the rEIAR is very comprehensive,  there are some key detractors.

  • It is not satisfied with the decommissioning aspects of the windfarm and in particular the management of all demolition waste is a major omission and renders the rEIAR non-compliant with the EIA Directive.
  • Although the rEIAR references the most up to date best practice guidance, a scoping process was not undertaken which is considered to be a very important best practice activity to ensure that the assessment addresses all the key issues with agreement from statutory consultees.  The lack of a scoping process is evident in the complaints from statutory consultees such as the South Galway Flood Relief Committee
  • The consideration of alternatives largely meets the requirements of the EIA Directive, its usefulness to decision makers is questionable and full consideration of reasonable alternatives during decommissioning has not been covered sufficiently.
  • There are inadequacies in the following key areas that invalidate the conclusions of some assessments:
    • Population and Human Health
    • Terrestrial Biodiversity
    • Landscape and Visual
    • Traffic and Transport
    • Soils, Land and Geology
    • Material Assets
    • Interaction of Impacts assessments.
  • The rEIAR excludes cumulative tree felling impacts stating that “only the impact of felling associated with the wind farm project was considered and any other felling carried out in the area during construction and following commissioning is beyond the study scope”. Given that the project involved the felling of 222ha of forest, this is considered to be a major omission from the assessment.
  • Given that construction is complete, decommissioning should be a key focus of the rEIAR, however, the conclusions that the assessments come to regarding adverse effects during and after decommissioning are not sufficiently evidenced.
  • The Soils, Land and Geology and the Major Hazards and Accidents chapters provide no evidence to demonstrate that the decommissioning phase would not increase the risk of a further peat slide.
  • The rEIAR adequately describes the emergency mitigation undertaken following the peat slide. However, the mitigation proposed during operation and decommissioning are in some cases inadequate and lack evidence to demonstrate their efficacy.

The EC assessment indicates that with the exception of the omission of an assessment of the likely significant effects of the project on the environment resulting from the disposal of waste, the rEIAR is generally in accordance with the requirements of the EIA Directive. However, inadequacies have been identified within the assessments which lead to uncertainty around the validity of the conclusions and the suitability and effectiveness of proposed mitigation.

Reaction and Analysis

This is playing like a broken record that every time it skips, the Irish taxpayer has to fork out another €5-10 million in fines. In a meeting in Brussels in February 2017, the EC asked the SGFRC to reach out to the Windfarm developer/operator (ESB) to highlight our concerns regarding increasing flooding and silting in South Galway.  We wrote the ESB a letter in April 2017, highlighting our concerns and attempted to engage in this remedial process.

The ESB stonewalled us and other South Galway stakeholders , essentially locking themselves in their ivory tower while they composed their rEIAR on ‘our’ potential impacts whilst ‘touting’  that had a robust public participation. There wasn’t a sliver of willingness  to engagement  – at this stage we think it’s a cultural thing in the ESB – it’s complete arrogance.

This lack of engagement was picked up by the EC Technical assessment.

The South Galway Flood Relief Committee submitted a complaint to the EC detailing how they attempted to contribute to the rEIAR but were ignored by the developer. The only communication they received in response to the letter sent to the developer in April 2017 was in a notice on 2 September (2020) stating that a rEIAR has been submitted to An Bord Pleanala.

Technical Assessment of Derrybrien Windfarm and Ancillary works

In our own analysis of the rEIAR, we highlighted some key items ‘missed’ in the EIAR that were submitted in 2017 letter. Notably the ESB thought that the nearest downstream flooding area from the windfarm was Gort (20km) and had no mention of Dereen and Beagh  (consider what happened to Hughie O’ Donnell’s house!)

And now unsurprisingly, the EC technical assessment has indicated that  ‘Considering the issues raised by the South Galway Flood Relief Committee, …some conclusions of the hydrology and hydrogeology assessment cannot be considered reasonable.  ‘

There was an opportunity to engage on this 3 years ago,  concerns had been outlined by the SGFRC, based on EC recommendations, but this was completely ignored by the ESB, so now the EC’s technical assessment is stating the obvious – The ESB needed to address community concerns!.

By ignoring that simple (and best-practice) rule, the ESB has just cost you, the Irish Taxpayer,  probably €10 million in fines.

Dammed If you do …

It would seem that An Board Pleanála have 2 choices now.  They can either grant consent but given the conclusions in this independent assessment, it’s highly unlikely that the EC will give this process the green light and remove the fine. We could then be back to square one in what could be a long drawn out process (years) on which a €15,000 daily fine is ticking so it could be tens of millions of Euro.

The other scenario is that An Board Pleanála refuses consent based on the observations of relevant stakeholders and the EC technical assessment and the process is restarted to create a more objective rEIAR.

Sometimes failing early is the better option and the ESB management must forgo their wounded pride and arrogance and do the right thing, the thing that they were asked to do many years ago – produce an objective and inclusive EIAR.

An Bord Pleanála are also not without scrutiny as within the chaos of this controversial development they overturned Galway County Councils planning permission refusal for some aspects of the Windfarm development.  However, by providing an independent technical assessment the EC has become a formidable chaperone of inappropriate ESB-An Bord Pleanála intimacies.

It will be interesting to see if An Bord Pleanála will have the objectivity that is required in this process but it’s hard to see how An Bord Pleanála can now grant consent after both local and EC technical assessments highlighted some major discrepancies in the rEIAR.

ESB senior Management need some pretty brutal scrutiny here for allowing this situation to deteriorate – trying to save themselves face as our significant cost. The public and our public representatives need to demand some accountability here -otherwise it’s the semi-state ESB tail that’s wagging the Governmental dog.

David Murray

Note : Please share if you can as you all are the agents of change!

References :

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South Galway flooding will get worse if nothing is done

If we leave things as they are South Galway flooding will get worse. A feasible solution has been found that will solve the worst of the flooding problems

Flooding in Blackrock – Photo Sean Brady

As part of a comprehensive 3 year analysis the unfolding scenario of South Galway flooding provides a grim outlook for South Galway. The worst flooding experience in 2015 is not the worst-case scenario- it get much worse. This article dives into the future flooding situation in South Galway and outlines light at the end of the tunnel.

In the analysis of a 1 in a 100 flood event, it is likely that South Galway will experience much more severe flooding than recent history. The M18 will flood. The N18 will flood. Gort will flood. There will be more homes flooding across the overall region. In 2015, 37 homes were flooded, in future scenarios, this rises to 50. The following scenario shows the potential flooding impact of a 1 in a 100 year flood.

The worst affected areas are Blsckrock\/Skehanna, Gort Town and Cahermore. In an extreme flood event 50 homes will flood and a further 23 would be at high risk which is <75cm to floor level.

Buildings flooded

In addition to homes flooding, there could also be 65 Non-residential properties flooding which include 20 slatted sheds/farmyards, Garages, Thoor Ballylee, Kiltartan Church and Graveyard, businesses in Gort (8)

Communities Isolated

As we have already experienced, there could be even more significant isolation within South Galway with communities like Rinrush cut off completely for over 3 months. Overall it is estimated that 175 homes and 75 non-residential properties would be cutoff. The M18 motorway would be in flood, the N18 would also be flooded so if you wanted to get from Galway to Gort, the only option would be to go via Loughrea.

The whole of South Galway would be paralyzed and common day tasks like getting kids to school, shopping, going to work, delivering feed to cattle, would be an arduous task ,not just for 1 day or so, but potentially, for months !

Many in South Galway already know this situation. In some cases a 500m, 1 minute drive to Kiltartan School was turned into the a 50km 50 minute round-trip to Loughrea. I’ve heard similar experiences with some young mothers in Cahermore clocking an additional 700km a week just to bring and collect their children from school.

In the past, some farmers had to relocate their cattle from their sheds to friends, neighbours sheds or even into Gort Mart. So, a 10 minute feeding time twice a day can become a two hour task, traveling several kilometers.

In future flooding scenarios, 49 individual sections of road would be flooded, including Crowe Street, Gort. The Kiltartan to Kinvara connection could be flooded for 99 days.

This level of isolation has a major impact on the life and soul of a community and businesses would see a catastrophic impact in the region.

This is the future reality of South Galway flooding, with Climate Chane considerations, and our committees remember the pain very well – be it a long-stay in a local hotel room for weeks, sleepless nights with the drone of pumps in the background, the alarm clock set an hour earlier to get kids ready for school, the anxiety of farmers as their livelihoods are under threat consistently for months.

Dynamics of flooding

The forensic analysis of flooding dynamics rely on statistical analysis on each of the floodplains as the complexities of the overall South Galway region arealmost impossible to gauge – its possible that the Blackrock/Skehanna flooding scenario could happen one year and Gort is OK, only to be reversed on the next flood event. In summary.

The frequent flooding scenarios that we’ve experienced in the past 3 decades will continue and get worse.

Light at the end of the Tunnel

So, yes, that was the grim reality of what South Galway will probably experience frequently in the future if things were to remain the same.

Public Consultation

Over the next 4-5 weeks, there is a public consultation on an emerging preferred scheme and we would recommend that people engage with Ryan Hanley consultants to understand the current flooding impact and the proposed solutions to alleviate extreme flooding. All information can be found here.

The details are as follows:

Recommendations are to leave feedback or contact the project team to answer any questions you have.

Summary

The outlook of flooding in South Galway looks bleak but the proposed scheme could address this. We recommend South Galway residents, business owners, farmers to give their feedback (positive, negative, or any concerns) on the scheme as part of the public consultation process.


Featured

South Galway on the verge of Spring Flooding

In October last year, high winter water levels and flood relief delays was leaving South Galway exposed to flood risk.   While August and September 2019 were close to double the expected rainfall, October and November had less rainfall than normal and it looked positive that the South Galway would escape yet another winter without flooding.   Some people had expressed this to me that we were coming out the far side of this and it was unlikely that we would get flooding now. Some people were more cautious reflecting back to 2014 when we had a significant spike in February 2014.

img_2820
Blackrock Turlough, Peterswell had almost disappeared 2 weeks ago

Less than 2 weeks ago,The Blackrock Turlough, Peterwell,  was close to disappearing and this morning it’s less than 1m from the road between Peterswell and Skehanna. There is more to come off the mountain and there is more rain on the way.

 

south-galway floods

While recent rain it not the dramatic rain downpours of 2009 and 2015, or the large flooding volumes either, its a slower creeping buildup of water levels.  This latest rainfall will likely flood roads around Tierneevin (just flooded across road as I’m typing..) and Tarmon and potentially by the weekend some roads around Blackrock, Peterswell, Ballylee, and we still have unpredictable weather over the next few weeks.

We have in some ways been lucky in the past 2 weeks.  While Storm Ciara packed a quick punch of rainfall, Storm Dennis hopped off us and landed with a vengeance in England where it offloaded a months rain in 48 hours.

However, even today Thursday 20th of Feb, the outlook is for Heavy rain tomorrow and Monday.

rainfall

The following graph shows the water levels at Russaun, the outlet of Lough Cutra. This essentially is the level of water that flows through Gort town (and eventually into Kiltartan)

south-galway floods2

Up until 9th February, the levels had stabilized and then Storm Ciara hit which surged levels. Storm Dennis and yesterdays rainfall have kept the levels up.  This level of water won’t cause any sudden flash flooding but will continue to fill up Coole, Caherglassaun and Cahermore and make South Galway more susceptible to severe flooding if we get a further ‘winter’ storm.

The key concern here is that if we got another severe storm, then we could see a similar surge as we did with Storm Ciara on top of current levels  – which would likely bring several flooding to the area.

On the backdrop of this, Galway County Council is due to submit Feasibility report in the coming weeks (Last date given was Q1-2020)  – which will then decide on the future and viability the South Galway Flood Relief Proposal.  South Galway, now, more than ever needs solutions not more failed report or expensive studies.

We are at the ‘right’ side of the flooding season and hopefully we will make it through unscathed.  We are coming very close to the time to call out our elected representatives on their commitments to finally eliminate flooding in South Galway.

We should be keeping in mind a storm of a different kind if this much needed project fails to make it through.

David Murray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Derrybrien Windfarm debacle could now cost us well over €4 million and rising

If this penalty application gets through in December – the Irish Government will have to pay over €4,168,000 into the ‘European Union own resources’ account and then continue to pay €10,000 per day thereafter.

From a previous article, Derrybrien Windfarm – Government and ESB treating us like fools,  we highlighted that the Irish Government was treating us like fool as European fines were mounting up on a daily basis – The situation looks a lot worse!

Here is the story so far: (In short)

  • In 2003, The Derrybrien Windfarm Developers (ESB – 95% owned by Irish Government)  didn’t do a proper Environment Impact Analysis for their development and proceeded with development and caused a massive landslide
  • In 2008 : After analysis the European Courts ruled against Ireland with a court order to reassess the Environmental Impacts and put in proper mitigation in place.
  • In 2008, the Irish authorities informed the Commission that the wind farm operator  (ESB) had agreed to provide an updated environmental impact assessment
  • In Jan 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a statement which indicated that Ireland would face fines of over €2m.  The court stated that even at this late stage, a full EIA must be conducted, which must include full consultation with residents, industry and other relevant stakeholders.
  • In April 2019, a That leads up to last Monday when the CJEU met in Luxembourg on the case. The full contingent of Judges (15) were there to listen to Ireland’s progress since January last year – it wasn’t great and the Irish Government was harshly critizied as it had not acted to implement the earlier judgment and there was quite some disbelief that Ireland could/would not act more decisively against a 95% state owned company. (ESB)
  • On 13 June 2019 an Application for an order to pay a penalty payment and a lump sum)  was proposed by the Advocate General to the Court and the picture is a lot starker.

Irish Government Response (or lack thereof)

Before we dive into the money – an interesting point to consider is that Richard Bruton Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment is also responsible the the ESB (well 95% responsible anyway) and obviously responsible for the Environment – so – this should have been easy as the buck stopped there.  After the April 2019 Judgement, frustrated by Government in-action I compiled a set of questions that I wanted the get answers to:

  • What progress has been made over the past 11 year and specifically, what actual progress has made in the past year, since the EU indicated potential fines of €2Million and 12K/day thereafter?  
  • Why does Ireland seem unprepared and unprofessional in this. (To quote an EU environment enforcement officer ” There was quite some disbelief that IE could/would not act more decisively against a 95% state owned company. ” What is causing this delay?
  • As its likely that we will now receive harsh fines – Who will be footing this bill? Will this be the ESB or the Irish Government?
  • What are the Governments plans to rectify this and when will this happen?

In order to get clarity I asked our local Fianna Fail TD, Deputy Anne Rabbitte to help get some clarification here and I asked her to frame some Parliamentary questions about this to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.  This she did and this was the response from the Ceann Comhairle 

“I regret to inform you that I have to disallow the (questions) … The Minister has no official responsibilities to Dail Eireann for this matter and is a matter for the ESB which is independent in its functions.”

parlimentaryQuestions

We are not allowed to ask questions about a potential large penalty to be imposed on the Irish Government by the European Court of Justice on an environmental infringement.  We are told we have to leave it to the ESB, a company 95% owned by the Irish Government, who promised to carry out an Environmental Impact assessment over 11 years ago because it is independent in its functions.

I can see how the European Court of Justice as critical of Irish Government governance = tail wagging dog

 

 

Potential Penalties

This is only an application and the final judgement will be given in a few months time, likely be the end of the year.  This application has proposed

  • A lump-sum fine calculated at a rate of €1000/day from the date of the Court Order to the date of final judgement
  • A daily penalty of €10,000/day from the date of final judgement until the matter is fully resolved.

This isn’t news (we have always known) that this was coming down the road – ESB could have avoided this – The Irish Government could have avoided this by just doing the EIA.

If we say the final judgement will be 1st December 2019. That’s exactly 4168 days since the Court Order. (3rd July 2008)

If this penalty application gets through in December – the Irish Government will have to pay over €4,168,000 into the ‘European Union own resources’ account and then continue to pay €10,000 per day thereafter.

Note :  This amount is 3 times the normal amount we should be paying because of the lack of response – Ireland got the maximum multiplier factor of 3 for this.

How does this relate to flooding in South Galway?

The original EIA of the wind-farm indicated that there would be no additional drainage on the 4sq KM site on the main Slieve Aughty Peak.  After the landslide happened the developers put in place a ‘Robust-Drainage‘ Scheme, which involved digging 6ft x 8ft drains from each of the 71 turbine bases .  Overall, the drainage of the site was impacted by:

  • 200 Hectares of forest was clear-felled
  • Over 30 km+ of drains were dug
  • Over 17km of roads were constructed
  • 71 turbine bases were dug out and  constructed

With no impact assessment – how knows the effect the wind-farm has on the drainage but if you now consider this picture you can see why Derrybrien, Gort and South Galway communities should be concerned.

derrybrien_rivers_gort.JPG

The severe flooding in Gort in 2009 was from the Gort River which comes down from this area.

The South Galway Flood Relief Committee want the same thing as Europe here – a proper assessment on the impacts of mountain operations in this area and retrospective mitigation to ensure that potential flooding impacts from the wind-farm are mitigated in some way.

The real frustration here is that rather than than investing in flood mitigation ware are throwing away money having to pay these penalties because organizations that could be contributing to the flooding won’t do the proper assessments and the Irish Government is standing idly by as money pours down the drain  – Meanwhile the South Galway Flood Relief project has a risk of not progressing because it could be deemed to be too costly

This is something that we need to get vocal about as this is our money we are wasting and our flooding solution that could be in crisis.  Please share!

Thanks,

-David Murray

 

 

For more information on the Derrybrien Windfarm Saga :

 

Notes:

  • There are other groups in South Galway are affected by the Windfarm landslide also. This has not been touch up under the South Galway Floods Blog.

 

ESB Derrybrien windfarm application refused

An Bord Pleanala has refused the application for ‘substitute content’ by the ESB for the development of the Derrybrien Windfarm. Substitute consent seeks retrospective planning permission for a project that is not compliant with EU law and is granted by the planning board in “exceptional circumstances”.

The Irish Taxpayer is currently paying fines incurred by years of delay and distraction by the ESB. These fines (increasing by €15,000 daily) are now accruing to over €17 million and with the latest refusal there are no signs of this stopping.

In their decision report, the Bord concluded that the application did not meet the criteria for substitute consent. The report highlighted :

  • The significant effects on the environment and significant permanent residual effects were clear, profound and unacceptable and therefore the windfarm development did not meet the exceptional circumstances criteria for a substitute consent application
  • Because the environmental effects were significant and permanent and the residual impact could not be fully mitigated, the windfarm development would not have adhered to the proper planning and sustainable development regulations.
  • The remedial works after the peat slide event did not mitigate the significant environmental impacts enough.

In summary :

  • The application didn’t meet the Substitute consent criteria
  • The windfarm development shouldn’t have happened in the first place – there were too many potential
  • The remedial works done since the peat slide just weren’t enough

One one hand the ESB were consistently pushing the argument that there were no significant detrimental impacts (with mitigation) while on the other hand in 2021 they installed a sign on the windfarm site in 2021, warning of risk of peat instability from turf cutting – essentially halting mechanized turf-cutting and impacting turbary rights – again with no consultation with anyone.

Deteriorating situation

The process has been very lengthy and the ESB have been called out once again on their inability to deal respectfully with local communities as the refused time and time again to engage with community stakeholders.

The ESB needs to be held accountable for the central role they played in Ireland amassing such as significant fine. They have ignored EU recommendations to engage with community stakeholders and have now lead us up a very expensive path with which have little or no options to turn to.

It’s time for or elected representatives to demand some accountability from the ESB management team in their approach to this situation.

The failure of ESB to successfully obtain a substitute consent application has now meant years of delay and no exit from our current predicament where fines of €15,000 are building up daily. (See Derrybrien Windfarm Penalty Tracker)

So we are now in unprecedented area. Nobody actually knows what’s the next step. ESB management have been keeping a very tight reign on their process and the complete lack of transparency means that nobody (except ESB) has a clue to their next step. We are not even sure if the ESB knows the next step. This is a fundamental question that our representatives need to ask.

Given the ESBs cavalier and entitled approach to resolving this situation, the expectation is that they will now pour more money into doing a judicial review and challenge the decision of on Bord Pleanala. Expect another rise in your electricity bill as ESB continue to use you fund this disaster.

Legality of the project

Loughrea solicitor Dan Shields who represents several clients in this controversial saga, has again questioned the legality of the project.

“It is a very significant decision by An Bord Pleanála and requires due consideration. It certainly casts major doubt on the legality of the project and we are currently investigating that.”

The Bord Pleanala decision is that the Derrybrien windfarm development would not have adhered to the proper planning and sustainable development regulations lends weight to the argument. In fact, without consideration of environmental factors also, as the Derrybrien Windfarm development started prior to the planning permission decisions being met – it became an unauthorized development.

Any development which requires planning permission and does not have that permission, or which is going ahead in breach of the specific conditions set out in its planning permission, is classed as ‘unauthorized development’.

Galway City Council

Construction started in July 2003, and some of the conditions were only met in September/October 2003 and in fact when the landslide occurred some conditions were still not met.

ESB has argued this case that there was never an enforcement order served – But then again Galway County Council were the ones to grant permission in the first place so they weren’t beating down the ESBs door. If it was you or me that had an unauthorized development – it would be a different story.

From the simple definition of ‘unauthorized development’ given by Galway County council – its is irrefutable that the windfarm was an unauthorized development

Given this and the now damning decision by an Bord Pleanala – the Derrybrien windfarm could in fact now be both an unauthorized development and illegal development – moving into a very vague area.

Community Power

There are no real winners in this scenario. An Bord Pleanala have indicated that damage has been done -permanently to the environment and that the mitigation hasn’t been enough. This isn’t good news for the different community groups as its been too late to avoid the damage.

The Irish taxpayers are the ultimate losers here as the fines are mounting to over €17 million and there is now no end in sight. In fact this is what the current mounting fines will look like:

ESB has lost it’s already low credibility to be able to resolve this quickly.

The only positives that can be drawn is that the community groups have been vindicated for standing up the big corporate powers like ESB. The EU have pointed out the ESBs wrongdoing and now ABP has drawn a distinct line under this that clearly states the wrongfulness of their approach.

Lessons Learned?

The ESB (ESB Networks, Electric Ireland) on paper present themselves as a benevolent community-oriented organization that want to create a sustainable future – but from the perspective of many South Galway communities – nothing could be further from the truth as they appear as an over privileged corporation that treats communities as annoying obstacles to their goals.

Until the ESB learns its lessons and changes it’s culture then we can expect to see a wave of Derrybrien’s in the near future. Ireland plans to double its onshore wind energy production by 2030 (National Development Plan 2021-2030).

For example, even today another Windfarm proposal is causing controversy and was discussed in the Dail. A windfarm application has been passed by An Bord Pleanala, despite being refused planning permission by Cork County Council which will be located close the stunningly beautiful Gougane Barra in Cork.

With the Turbines 178m tall (that’s right) Some of the local communities will soon have to deal with Shadow flicker from the turbine blades for 20 minutes on a daily basis – but then again – who cares ?

Sounds like more of the same to me.

-David Murray

South Galway Flooding solution slow but within reach

We’ve had a few near misses since the off-the-charts devastating floods this time 6 years ago. This is a snapshot of what was flowing through Michael Cahill’s farmyard at the time.

This project is vitally important for so many of the communities of South Galway. This isn’t a sprint (even though we’d like one) – it’s a marathon! In the wider context – the proposal of flood relief channels has been raised since the 1960’s and we’ve broken new ground on this. We’ve been waiting decades and now waiting 1-2 years seem that it’s ‘within reach’. It’s been very frustrating for many in the community as flood frequency and levels are causing serious impacts of people livelihoods and health. Where are we now exactly?

  • Detailed analysis of the overall problem, flooding, levels, flows and connectivity, has been completed.
  • A feasible solution has been identified (At a high-level) that matchs Cost-Benefit and environmental constrains. This is the emerging preferred scheme
  • A highly engaging public consultation in 2021 has occurred despite Covid-19 challenges
  • More precise engineering details are now been worked out – taking in Public consultation feedback, refining channel depths, finding out soil consistency etc.
  • There are now more detailed field assessments and environmental surveys being carried out on the emerging preferred scheme to ensure that environmental aspects are fully considered.

That’s how far we have gotten until now. The main steps in 2022 (From recent Project Status report) :

  • Complete all surveys/analysis/reports for the preferred scheme proposal with an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR)
  • Final Public Consultation at the end of the 2022

That will then mean looking at Government and Ministeral approval in 2023 and hopefully that means we can kickstart then.

We all would of course have liked this yesterday but this project has been progressing through many challenges (from underlying complexity through Covid-19).

The main thing is that it is continuously progressing and we are heading in the right direction. All we can do is hope that this solution can be put in place before we get another devastating flood.


We would like to acknowledge the people with the teams working on this, from Galway County Council (Especially Enda Gallagher) and OPW, Ryan Hanley, Mott-Macdonald and our local Councillors monitoring this on a monthly basis.

Also, we would like to acknowledge the board support from landowners throughout this process.

Finally, this project wouldn’t be happening without the general support from the South Galway Communities. Every share, comment, like on Social Media does makes a difference in keeping this a priority and in focus. Thanks and please continue to support.

David Murray, on behalf of South Galway Flood Relief Committee

South Galway Flooding Update – November 2021

As site investigation works progress in South Galway, we take a look back at the progression throughout 2021.

Site investigation works progressing in South Galway

2021 brought us through the next stage of the progression of the South Galway Flood Relief. This time last year a potential solution was identified that met the required Cost-Benefit Criteria and Environmental criteria for the the project. 2021 was focused on getting presenting emerging options to the public, getting feedback and then refining these to a a preferred scheme involving channels, culverts etc. An Preferred scheme then need to have an Environmental impact Assessment Report prepared which involves a substantial amount of surveys, investigations – So there has to be a pretty good idea of the overall flooding solution.

Emerging Preferred Scheme

In February 2021, the South Galway Flood Relief Project team released a feasibility study and an emerging preferred flood relief scheme, together with supporting flood risk mapping and drawings. This was a substantial report with flood risk maps, emerging solutions and needed public consultation to get feedback on some of the options.

Public Consultation

In March 2021, the project consultants kick-started the public consultation but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the consultation initially took place online. However, with the immense amount of technical data that was produced for the proposals and with a clear demand to meet the team on site, the public consultation was extended for 8 weeks to enable on-site visits by the project team with landowners.

The extension was a success as there were over 40 site visits made and a significant amount of landowners involved who were able to talk directly with the project teams and express their concerns. The project consultants created a list of Frequently-Asked-Questions to help address this. Concerns were raised on channel and route, on Target Maximum flood levels (TMFL), fencing, maintenance, compensation etc. This consultation phase finished on 25th June 2021.

Detailed Analysis

The project teams then needed to investigate some of the issues and recommendations raised during the public consultation feedback. This then required additional localised modelling and other queries required the development of more detailed specifications (for example fencing proposals and access details across channels). There were clarifications requested on the compensations mechanisms (which is via the Arterial Drainage Act). The following is an example of some of the analysis works addressed since the public consultation process :

  • Modelling along the entire scheme, incorporating proposals and observations submitted during the public consultation. All modelling works and proposals will form part of the ‘Options Assessment’ that is required under the EIAR.
  • Fencing – details of fence types have being developed and more information gathered during site investigation works are informing additional requirements.
  • TMFLs – levels will be reviewed when results from ecological surveys / modelling have been finalised. Turlough habitat surveys and salinity levels in Kinvarra are the main inputs required to finalise TMFLs.
  • TII have engaged a 3rd party to review the M18 proposals put forward under the scheme. The project team are awaiting feedback from the TII.
  • The project team is also engaged with TII on proposals for the N67 in Kinvarra

Site Investigations

Site Investigations in Skehanna Nov 2021

With the public consultations giving rise to different options, the emerging preferred route needed to be analyzed , remodeled and also more details would be required to understand the type of soil/rock along the route.

In October 2021, Irish Drilling Ltd was appointed to carry out the geo-technical investigations. Site Investigation works commenced Monday 01/11/21 and work crew are looking at emerging routes identified in Feasibility study and with public feedback.

There has been additional reviewing/clarification of proposals that land owners indicated a preference for. The consultants will be referring back to other land owners as further proposals are developed and tied down.

EIAR/Surveys

One of the key items of this part of the development is an Environmental Impact Assessment report (EIAR) which requires substantial level of detail and analysis to ensure that the project is complying with European directives. The main work is completing environmental surveys along the emerging route. The EIAR, is now on the critical path of the programme.

Timeline

At time of writing the following is the current plan:

  • The EIAR is scheduled to be completed in June 2022
  • There will the be Public Exhibition of the Preferred route scheduled for Q3 2022.

From the last program timeline – this is yet another 6 months delay that has dogged this project from the start.

Progress

As highlighted before, it’s understandable that as this is a substantially complex project things can be slower than expected. Covid-19 has played it’s part, in slowing things down. From looking at the work done over the past few months there another aspect that’s slowing things down that it very important to highlight – ‘Adaption‘.

At various stages of the project, there has been different inputs from hydrology, environment, local knowledge, landowner input that has required a refinement and adaption of the solution. There are many cases since the last public consultation where landowner feedback has indicated alternate route preferences and if these have led to re-modelling and analysing these options.

This will add delay to the project, but if this leads us to better decision-making with consideration to our local landowners, then we should have a better and more acceptable solution – so maybe its worth it. On the other hand the more we delay the more likely it will be that South Galway will experience another flooding catastrophe. A difficult thing to reconcile.

The emerging route and some alternatives are feeding into the preferred scheme which will the the focus of the EIAR and that’s going to take another 6 months to finish surveys and compile.

Progress

The key thing is that the project has never stalled , despite Covid- it is always progressing and its progressing in the right direction. It’s very challenging project but there’s a very good dedicated team driving it.

The site investigation works have been seen by the various communities as a positive step – it’s great to see diggers on the ground, albeit for initial surveys, not flood relief works but it serves as a reminder of progress on this project.

We can only hope that South Galway can escape flooding for the next 2 years and we can then see the real ‘diggers-on-the-ground’.

M18 Motorway design not future-proofed for flooding

Following recent public consultation and the emerging preferred scheme, it has come to light that TII (Transport Infrastructure Ireland) , also known as NRA (National Roads Authority) made some significant blunders in the motorway design and construction at Kiltartan/Raheen that may have significant impacts on flooding in the area in the future. The flooding sensitivity and unpredictability highlighted by locals and the OPW was not considered in the design of the flooding mitigation and there was a lack of future-proofing that will now pose challenges to the South Galway Flood Relief Scheme

Flooding Concerns Highlighted

Before the severe flooding in November 2009 locals David Murray and John Nolan met with the National Roads Authority (NRA but now TII) and highlighted concerns of building the M18 Motorway across a flood overflow path that happened in previous years between Kiltartan, Corker, Raheen and into Coole.

Flood overflow path through Kiltartan, Corker, Raheen and then into Coole

After the severe flooding in 2009, David Murray compiled a report that outlined the flooding dynamics in Kiltartan and the concerns, if the motorway was going to go ahead, to ensure properly sized and placed culverts to account for this overflow. This report include maps, videos and photos of the flooded area.

Excerpt of the report

The report (referencing the New N18 (M18) outlined various concerns.

Properly sized and placed culverts would allow water to flow eliminating buildup of hazardous flooding levels. One beside Eugene Nolan’s house in Corker and an upgrade to existing culverts at Raheen. These culverts would be needed in addition to culverts on the new N18. As this route will be modified during new N18 development, it could make sense to include these modifications.

Kiltartan Flooding Report, March 2010

The report was sent to the NRA and others along with various emails and it was indicated that these would be taken into consideration by the ‘experts’ on the scheme.

The concerns have been raised in regard to building of the new N17 to ensure that this overflow can be handled with properly sized and placed flood culverts.

Kiltartan Flooding Report, March 2010

This was highlighted to the NRA in 2010 who were still designing the motorway. Additional communications also questions the flow rates used in the design but the culvert designs were deemed sufficient.

Upgrading Kiltartan-Corker Culverts

There is a history of flawed flood mitigation works in this area 1995, where the road was continuously raised to keep traffic open but which eventually became a dam that contributed to flooding of Kiltartan Church. See previous article: Flood Alleviation – What happens when our experts get it wrong?

An additional report to the OPW after the several 2009 floods, highlighted the flooding situation in Kiltartan highlighted the ongoing saga of raising roads without putting in culverts. The Kiltartan-Raheen Road was raised 3-4 times since 1995 and which subsequently created a dam that kept water back in Kiltartan and contributed to flooding of Kiltartan Church. This was as indicted below.

The OPW did the analysis and looked at levels where it became very obvious on how much the road had been raised in the past. Here the red lined ‘mound’ that holds the Kiltartan-Raheen road has been raised continuously since 1995.

Levels taken from Appendix 1 of he Kiltartan Flooding Report January 2011

The recommendations in the report was to install culverts through this ‘mound’ as follows:

The key things to note here is that

  • The invert-level (or Base level) of the Culvert is 11.74m (Above Sea level)
  • The cluvert installed was too small to take subsequent flows (2015)

The OPW report concludes as follows:

It is considered absolutely essential that the design of the new motorway take into account the water dynamics at Kiltartan so as to avoid any flow restrictions. The flow to be considered while designing the motorway was determined under this report and found to be approximately 100m3/s.

Kiltartan Flooding Report January 2011

The report also recommended the following :

M18 Design Flaws

It now appears that there were significant design flaws in the motorway culvert designs. From data obtained during public consultation – The levels of the culverts installed 700m downtream in the M18 Motorway were higher than the upstream culverts on the Kiltartan-Raheen road. In fact the base (invert) level of the lowest culvert under the M18 motorway at Kiltartan is over 2 ft above the base level of the upstream Kiltartan-Corker Culvert, meaning that the water would have to rise just under 2ft way up the culvert before it would work.

Here you can see the lowest Culvert Base at 12.4 M (above sea level/OD) where as the culver based in Kiltartan-Corker is 11.74m, and Corker -Coole Culvert is 10.43m.

TII/NRA may defend themselves and say that the motorway culverts were aligned with the topography of the land in question but this doesn’t really hold. Why were the culverts not aligned (or below) the level of the overflow?

  • There was already a land profiling works done after 2009 flow
  • In 2015, it was again obvious that the culverts and profiling weren’t working as water was backing up
  • Flooding in South Galway has been deteriorating and unpredictable. There were no provisions made about future scenarios
  • It was highlighted that Kiltartan was a ‘Pinch Point’ in the overall South Galway Flooding Dynamics

TII can claim that they were not making any additional changes to the hydrology of the area but what there were doing was constructing a substantial obstacle for any future works. If they were worried about unpredictable and changing hydrology, surely the topology of the land itself would have restricted flows and they could have installed culverts at a lower level to at least align with the Kiltartan-Corker culvert (which was at 11.74m) .

It is clear that the M18 Culverts at Raheen were not designed with consideration of local concern, OPW concerns and the future of the area in mind

Keeping ‘things as they were’ in an area where the flooding situation has been deteriorating for the past 4 decades with full knowledge of the longevity and immutability of a Motorway is poor reflection of road engineering and TII and will now likely incur a significant cost.

South Galway Flood Relief Scheme Recommendations

The emerging preferred South Galway Flood Relief Scheme Feasibility has indicated that the M18 Motorway will need a new large culvert to take something like 40m3 of flow. The report defines:

Augmenting the culvert capacity under the M18, e.g. installing a new 45m long 7.5m x 2.5m culvert complete with headwalls and with invert of 11.1mOD (invert designed to be lowered if necessary).

So there it is, in black and white, the base level of the culverts will be 11.1m (or lower) and will need to be 7.5m wide and 2.5m high. In the current scheme of culverts, it will look like this:

What is the impact of doing nothing:

According to the feasibility study, if the existing M18 culvert capacity is not augmented and only the flood relief channel works undertaken, the 1:100 flood levels in Kiltartan and Corker would rise over 2 ft. over the proposed targets and scenario and properties at properties at Corker and Kiltartan would be under significant flood threat. This is a scenario that must be avoided.

What is happening now?

So is this work part of the South Galway Flood Relief Scheme? According to the feasibility report, this is ‘Under Review’ but the onus and cost of adding this new culvert must come under responsibility of TII. They commissioned the design, they were notified by local people and OPW about the flooding risk and they built their culverts at a level that is too high to allow further flood mitigation. The installation of these new culverts at the right level needs to be done and paid for by TII and must not be allowed to threaten the delicate cost-benefit ratio and the viability of this scheme.

Flooding in Kiltartan has been exacerbated in the past. Roads were installed across overflow routes without proper consideration of volume and flooding levels and churches and land flooded. Once again Kiltartan is in the same situation as now a motorway has been installed without proper consideration of volume and flooding levels. TII now has a responsibility to fix this flawed design.

On-Site Flooding Consultation starting next week

Given the recent easing of Covid restrictions, the South Galway / Gort Lowlands project team are now in a position to progress the additional phase of public consultation from next week, until Friday 25th June.

The original public consultation phase deadline was asked to be extended due to concerns that the potentially impacted landowners of the emerging proposed scheme needed to meet with consultants on the land to fully understand the proposals.

“While an immense amount of work and a lot of technical data was produced for the proposals, the expectation that many landowners would be able to gain a sufficient understanding from maps and complex hydrology tables and terms was too much to ask”, said David Murray, chair of South Galway Flood Relief Committee. “We got a clear demand from landowners to meet people on the ground to be able to understand how this proposed scheme would work on their land.”.

The meetings are being arranged to facilitate land owners that have particular issues with the proposals and also land owners that may not have access to, or fully understand, the information that has been published during this consultation.

“It is not intended to meet with every land owner that will be effected by the scheme,” indicated Enda Gallagher, Project Lead at Galway County Council. “The vast majority of people that emailed or phoned the project team during the initial consultation phase, were fully informed and fully satisfied with the responses they received. We have already received a number of requests for site meetings.”

The site visits will be commencing the week of the 24th of May and the one month extension to the this Public Consultation phase will be on going until Friday 25th June. Members of the public can make submissions by email southgalwayfrs@ryanhanley.ie or telephone (091)509309.

If you have any questions on this consultation /site visits then you can also use the number above.

It is important that this project has active public participation and we are encouraging people to give feedback as this is our one shot at ending this frequently occurring disaster for our South Galway Communities.

You can still give feedback using the online form, or email/phone above, or let us our your County Councillors know if you need a paper version.

Belligerent ESB abruptly halts turf cutting on the Derrybrien Windfarm

ESB recently erected this sign on their Derrybrien Windfarm Site

In an unbelievable turn of events, the ESB has recently erected signs on the entrance to the Derrybrien Windfarm warning against the cutting of Turf on the Derrybrien Windfarm site, without any consideration of the local community.  

There are about 114 plots of land within the Windfarm site boundary that many residents of Derrybrien and Killnadeema have been using for these through their lifetime for individual use as fuel.

In October 2003, a subsidiary of the ESB destabilized the peat on the Slieve Aughty mountains  during the early stages of construction of the 70-turbine Derrybrien windfarm, which resulted in dislodging around half a million cubic meters of peat down the mountain.  In Nov 2019, after 11 years of playing cat-and-mouse, the Court of Justice of the European Union slapped Ireland with a €5m fine  and a subsequent €15,000/day fine until a retrospective environmental impact assessment and mitigation measures are put in place.  As part of the expected assessment, public consultation was expected be incorporated into the process – unfortunately, the ESB has continued to pay lip-service to the mandatory process and once again is leaving local communities, literally, ‘out in the cold‘.

Last year the ESB, after a decade of ignoring the process, carried out a ‘Remedial Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR)’ in which they have stated that they (GortWind Farms) “ have engaged with the general public in relation to the Derrybrien Wind Farm Project throughout the development and operation of the Project.”  This engagement constituted providing a ‘plain-English’ flyer to people within 10km, putting up the required notices in August and letting people know that the EIAR had been completed – not exactly engagement – but more dictation!

In recent weeks, we have seen another example of this type of dictatorial engagement. The ESB has put up a sign ‘Warning! – Risk of Peat Instability from peat harvesting on site’.  This has been a complete surprise to the local communities. With the sign, the ESB have once turned the tables on the South Galway communities, meaning that Turf-cutting contractors will be the ones liable for peat destabilization and not the ESB themselves.

Is seems that in their EIAR they have concluded that Slieve Aughty, Derrbrien is at risk of further instability due to Peat harvesting and are now issuing an official warning  about this.  This sign has effectively halted peat operations in the region and it has thrown uncertainty on tens of families who depend (and have always done so) on peat as their fuel. 

It’s a very disturbing situation– In 2003, The ESB who literally ploughed ahead without a proper impact assessment and dug 17.5 Km of roadways, 39Km of drains, and excavated 185,000m3 of Peat siloss have now concluded, ‘retrospectively’ that the Slieve Aughty Mountain was so sensitive that even peat harvesting is a danger.  

It is however the manner in which ESB approaches this that is causing big a concern in the community. There is no willingless to engage with local communities to really understand the real impacts on people.

“Within the face of all the controversy surrounding the ESB’s management of the Derrybrien windfarm, this just shows the level of belligerence that South Galway communities have to deal with,” said David Murray, Chair of the South Galway Flood Relief Committee’. “They caused the issue, they were asked to fix it but for years they refused. The Irish public has since been required to bail out them out with fines now mounting to €13 million, and growing daily and this is how the ESB continues to behave- It’s atrocious”

“The Derrybrien windfarm continues to have a big impact on the communities here but the ESB continue to blatantly ignore this and with this latest statement, they are exacerbating it”, said Martin Collins, Derrybrien. “We cannot accept and will not accept the self-serving assertion that there are no significant adverse impacts form the windfarm development. Even the erection of this sign has now had a direct impact on people here who now cannot get their turf cut”

The EIAR has stated that warning signs will be erected at site to raise awareness and highlight the recommended mitigation measures and communication will be established between the plot owners, turf cutting contractors and the windfarm site manager of Gort Wind Farms. Currently, all we can deduce is that right at the start of cutting season these signs have been erected but communications have been sparse to non-existent. There have been no ‘recommended mitigation measures’ highlighted as such.

What has been missing in the EIAR is the impact that this would have on the community – what about the people depending on being able to cut turf.

Worse still is that the ESB are trying to turn the tables as the EIAR even states that “In the worst case scenario, a large scale peat slide related to the impact of mechanical peat extraction in the turbary (turf) plots could impact the infrastructure for the wind farm”

So the turf cutters can now be held liable for instability including any damage to the windfarm itself.

Flood Risk Assessment

Murray indicated that the flooding risk assessment was also significantly flawed. One of the core principals of these environmental impacts assessments is that they need to take into consideration the cumulative effects of other projects or operations. The EIAR however contained a statement, “It should be noted that for the purposes of this assessment, only the impact of felling associated with the wind farm project was considered and any other felling carried out in the area during construction and following  commissioning is beyond the study scope.”

In other words, this means that as ESB should have co-ordinated with Coillte to understand previous and future forestry to get a better understanding of the impact of the windfarm would have had on the flooding risk. If they did their research they would have found out that in the few years previous to the windfarm development, there have been 987 hectares of afforestation,  1,852 hectares of clear Felling, and 1,209 hectares of Thinning, operations that would continue to have an impact through windfarm development.  They didn’t do this then and based and they have refused to do it now.

Public Engagement principles

To really assess impacts, it is vital to have public consultation and engagement. This consultation process was not part of the ‘substitute consent’ process and a start warning from our own Irish Supreme court indicated that it was inconsistent with European law. t. (see Irish Times :  Supreme Court rules ‘substitute consent’ inconsistent with EU environmental law )

By refusing to engage proactively with local communities, the ESB are shooting themselves in the foot if they want be rid of these European fines. The frustrating thing here is that they will also be shooting each and everyone of us in foot also!

A simple example is that the ESB was over reliant on OPW floodmaps to determine past flooding events and they overlooked any impacts on the Beagh area as they pronounced Gort as the main downstream area that flooded. Public consultation and engagement with the South Galway Flood Relief Committee would have highlighted this. The ESB refused to consider materials already provided by the SGFRC which indicaed this.

Bully in the playground

With their belligerent and arrogant approach, the ESB is behaving like the bully in the playground and continues to trying to trample the local community once again. Our government is acting like a demure school principal turning a blind-eye to this unacceptable treatment. The EU is the only one that is backing the local communities – It is monitoring the playground and may not like what it sees. If the EU decides that this process has not reached a satisfactory outcome then these fines will last a lot longer.

At the end, it us, the taxpayers that are paying for all of this blundering but we need to seek a resolution through our public representatives and ensure that we are protected from this situation.

(Please Share if you can!)

Flood Relief Channels – What are they?

The South Galway Flood Relief Scheme in currently in public consultation and looking for feedback (positive and negative!) from the community. One key aspect of the emerging Engineering Scheme flood are channels. There are 16km of channel works split into around 25 individual channels. These channels have varying widths, depths and features and this article gives some additional insight into these fundamental parts of a flood relief solution and its important for many people to understand what they.

What is a flood alleviation channel in this scheme?

In general a flood alleviation channel, is a constructed path for water to flow as a predetermined level that will help ‘channel’ waters between the key Turloughs in South Galway from mountains to sea. In general, these channels follow the existing overflows that we have seen in severe flood events, but these are designed to kick-in at lower-levels to help mitigate flooding across the region. These channels are NOT concrete structures but are in fact land that is profiled to achieve the required flow as the required depth. In fact this is what channels could look like (Artist Impression only) : (from South Galway FRS website)

What kinds of channels are we talking about?

Channel distances, widths and depths will vary from area to area, and from within the channel itself to achieve flow. While land can rise and fall a channel will maintain a downhill flow to bring water from A to B.

  • Some channels are 1 m wide (Tarmon) and some are 30m Wide (Caherawooneen Bypass Channel). Blackrock (15m base)
  • Some channels are 83m in Length and some are over 1km (Kiltartan, Caherglassuan and some 2km (Caherawooneen)
  • Some channels are 70cm deep, and some are 4m – the average depth is about 1.3m)

The feasibilty study give some insight into channels which is summarized be shown below. In general

Base Width/Main WidthThis is the width of the base of the channel
DepthUsually given in Average Depth and Maximum Depth
SlopesThis defines the slopes of the channel e.g. 1 in 2 (every metre depth of a channel will be sloped by 2m width

A channel with a 12m base with a 1m depth and 1 in 2 slope would look like this:

A 12m base channel of 1m deep will be 16m wide

A channel of 4m deep with the same 12m base would be 28m wide

Channel Fencing

The feasibilty report mentions fencing and there seems to be two types of fencing indicated.

  • Fencing across the channel – between properties
  • Fencing running alongside the channel

Fencing across the channel will happen as the channel crossed field boundaries. This fencing must ensure that the waterflow is not impeded and is commonly a galvanized type of structure as shown below:

The project consultants have indicated that fencing type can be discussed with landowners but to contact them with any feedback or concerns.

The feasibility report mentions some fenced-off channels (Blackrock-Skehanna), Kiltartan,Caherglassaun, Labane, runs alongside channels – potentially because of the depth of channels)

The project consultants have indicated that fencing type and access can be discussed with landowners but to contact them with any feedback or concerns.

‘Returned to Agriculture’

In general it is hoped for many channels, where feasible would be ‘returned to agriculture’ – meaning that these channels may only kick in every several years (some more frequent than others) and so can be farmed in the meantime.

Culverts

When a channel crosses a main road or access road then culverts are needed and with this emerging preferred scheme, many current culverts will be upgraded.

Channel Paths

The different channels are shown in the design maps as something like this:

The Thick Green line indicates the channel – The reference Q3.4.01 can be looked for in the feasibility report to give more detial

The path of the channel is indicated on the design schemes as shown below.

AreaScheme Drawings
Blackrock, BallyleeSCH004
Gort TownSCH003
BallyloughaunSCH004
Kiltartan/Corker/RaheenSCH003
LabaneSCH004
Lough MannaghSCH005
Tulla/RooSCH005
CooleSCH003
CaherglassaunSCH003
PolldonoghueSCH002
CahermoreSCH002
Caherawoneen to DungorySCH002
TermonSCH005
BostonSCH005

Feedback

During this public consultation it is important to give your feedback on the scheme. you can do this by emailing the project team or calling them at +353 91 587116 with any queries, feedback or concerns.

Managing Maximum Turlough Levels in extreme flood events

As part of the public consultation process, the South Galway Flood Relief Scheme has proposed a range of measures to protect the area from extreme flood events. The majority of severe flooding happens when our Turloughs reach levels that cause homes, buildings and roads to flood. One of the key underlying strategies to manage flood events is to define Target Maximum Flood Level for each flood plains. This is a level in which homes wouldn’t flood and be given at least 75cm ‘freeboard‘ from finished floor level. The TMFL is not just about the level that saves flooding in particular floodplain, it is also a level which wouldn’t cause flooding impacts downstream and also it wouldn’t threathen SACs – so essentially it is dependent on TMFLs from other floodplains – that’s where many of the complexities lie

The next key strategy is to allow overflow from Turloughs/floodplains to ensure that levels don’t exceed the TMFL – this is generally done through Overflow channels.

The diagram below shows a Turlough with a 1:100 year flood event that floods a home. the TMFL is reduced from the peak flood event and channels are constructed to take the overflow of the water

What are the TMFL levels? These can be found on Page 14 of the feasibility report (Page 28 of PDF). The key question that people are asking is – how much will it drop the water level in my area? The table 2.2 shows the difference between the 1:100 year flood peak and the TMFL.

On average this is a difference of 1.4m and in some cases it’s 2.4m. A general observation that this is not a huge drop but from analysis, it saves homes, farms, buildinges from flooding and gives adequate freeboard – this is the basis of the proposed solution – the emerging preferred scheme.

Another way of looking at this and the relationship between Turologh 1 in 100 year flood level is as follows: The Blue is the 1:100 flood peak, the Orange is the proposed TMFL.

This diagram really underscores the proposed flood relief scheme. The channels are there to take the extreme peak of flooding, from Turlough to Turlough and save all of the homes, buildings from flooding along the way. This is not a drainage scheme because once the channels stop flowing, its down to normal Turlough drainage after that.

If we add more information here we have the following

Some things to note on this.

  • The blue line is the 2015/2016 flood event which is very close to the 1:100 flood event – this isn’t surprising as it was the worst that we’ve experienced to date.
  • The grey line is what we could expect to experience in our Turloughts very year or so.
  • The Yellow line is summer levels which will be the lowest water level (for Wet Turloughs like Coole, Caherglassaun) or actual land level like Blackrock (Dry Turloughs
  • In general, for the upland Turloughs/floodplains, the TMFL is halfway between the 1:100 year flood levels and a 1:2 year flood level (Normal) . In the lowlands, its a bit more

Why is TMFL not lower?

We are quering this at the moment because initial TMFL recommendations that were analyzed were lower than these, especially in the lowlands Kiltartan=> Caherglassaun. The response to this query is because of environmental concerns.

Why do these channels like?

The following are mock-ups of channels. In general, channels are mainly land profiling where lands will be profiled, lowered and returned back as agricultural land.

There’s lots more to analyse here and I recommend that people visit the site and book an appointment with the consultant to discuss the proposed emerging flood relief scheme