South Galway Flooding – Lowering the ‘Lip’ of the basin

Over 3 months ago I presented an overview of how flooding comes down from Slieve Aughty mountains and fills 7 basins on its way to the sea.What I’ve found out since is simply unbelievable.   A huge amount of flooding in South Galway could be alleviated in a week. The ‘channel’ that has been discussed for many years is not a 5km – 7m deep channel proposed by Jennings-O’Donovan/OPW (at the cost of 46Million). It’s not a 500m-600m channel that we guesstimated a few months back – It is in fact more close to a 100m channel 2m deep that could be funded with a few church gate collections.

In April 2016, at a public meeting in Sullivan’s Hotel, I presented a view on how the basins filled and flowed into each other down from the Slieve Aughty mountains.  It was the basin at Caherglassaun, however, that was of major concern.  It’s lip (the place where it overflows from) was in fact higher then the previous basin (Coole) and as such the whole Coole area would rise alongside Caherglassaun until the lip overflowed. This rise in Coole is what led to flooding in Coole, Killamoran, Roo, Garryland, Hawkhill, Glenbrack, Tierneevin, Crannagh, Ballnastaig, Corker, Raheen and Kiltartan and covered over 20 KMsq of an area.  This is illustrated below:

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After analysis I proposed that if this lip was lowered by 2-3m, then this would alleviate the majority of flooding in this area.   After looking at maps I though that this was several hundred metres.   I highlighted where this lip was in Caherglassaun

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A few days after this public presentation in Sullivan’s Hotel, I got several phone calls from some local people affected by the flooding and they were very excited by a find that they had made.  They went in search of the lip and could not believe what they found and asked me out to take a look.

The ‘Lip’

I was in shock when I saw what they found.  The picture above shows Caherglassaun and how the water flows out from it through a woodland.  if we take a closer look at this from above we get this :

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Water overflows from Caherglassaun through a woodland and into a field (Paddy O Grady’s) and then it flows across a natural channel and across the road at John Willie Leeches.  The surprise for us was where it exited the woodland – shown here as “The ‘lip'”

When you enter the woodland there is a distinctive channel within it,  a natural overfrlow channel by the look of it, coming up from Cahergassun lake all the way up to the field. It’s about 2 m deep and 5m wide and is illustrated here:

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While this natrual overflow channel was a surprise, the biggest one was this channel was blocked by a 9 ft wall.

The wall looks like this:

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This, ladies and gentleman, is the lip of Coole/Caherglassaun basin

In the height of Winter 2015 flooding in the area,  water was rushing over this wall and falling into the field whose level is above head-height here.   As you can see the flooding here dragged  lots of rubbish through it.  There are a few things to note about this wall.

  1. The height of the wall to the level in the woodland is ~2.4m
  2. Immediately in front of the picture is a small wall about 3ft high. This is the original wall and one also skirts perpendicular through the channel
  3. Behind the original wall (small stones), you can seen much larger boulders. These are backed against the small wall and tower over it. On top of these are smaller rocks

On further investigation there are trees that are buried 6-8ft in boulders.  Beyond this wall is a flat field that dips down again.  and this points toward land that has been reclaimed some time on this past.  It was confirmed by a local farmer that this field was reclaimed in the 1970’s.

Land Reclamation

EEC funded schemes such as the ‘Farm Modernization Scheme’ gave grants to farmers for them to ‘improve’ their lands and typically meant removing hedgerows, wetland drainage and making the land more manageable by removing boulders, mounds, dips etc.  For farmers in the west of Ireland, with a heavy limestone region, this became an opportunity to remove boulders and fill in holes. Unfortunately this also meant potential blockage of swallow holes or overflow channels, some that may never have overflowed in generations.  That was the 1970s and this is not about attributing blame on farmers that followed government backed incentives.  These are just fact;

  • There have been 100s of Karst features/swallow holes filled in around South Galway
  • The overflow at Caherglassaun is blocked due to land reclamation
  • The overflow at Cahermore was blocked due to land reclamation

There probably isn’t a locality in South Galway that hasn’t contributed to this.

Some time in the past, this flat field was a number of smaller fields which had outcrops/hills in them (OS Map)  and this was reclaimed into a larger, more manageable flat field.

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On the orignal OS map, there are mounds indicated in the field. This would have been bumpy, even hilly land and with land reclaimation there were removed and the big boulders were used to create a new level to which the field was leveled.

Today it looks like this.

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The OPW Channel

Why did this not come up in the Jenning’s – O’ Donovan OPW report? Why were there different levels and a different path marked out?  Why did they not come across this lip and plan accordingly?  The OPW simply didn’t do their ground work. Their path was skirting the East boundary of the wall which is much higher elevation and would cost more to implement.

The Great News – a weeks work!

Rather then dwelling on the past – we can embrace this as great news!  Replacing the boulder wall with a fence of will probably take 1 m off the lip and then we need something like 1m-1.5me more for 100m which, when compared to a 5km, 7m deep channel is insignificant – a mere week’s work. The channel can be gentle dip that is returned to grassland afterwards.  Cahermore will have a piped channel that can progress the water so overall the water is kept flowing and flows earlier stopping that build-up.  [From previous analysis I’ve given a figure of 50m3/second as a guideline of type of flows that we can anticipate based on previous high flood events.  The OPW + Galway county council and landowners were presented this figure and I assume our will have sized the piping accordingly, after their own calculations]

The Bad News – nobody is doing anything!

I’ve known about this lip for a few months and I and several people have made our public representatives aware of this. I’ve talked with Sean Canney , Ciaran Cannon and Joe Byrne (Galway CoCo)  + there are other members of Galway County Council involved in discussions with local farmers.  There has been a lot of talk about this scheme and that scheme, CFRAM, flood forums and reports but there is currently no action attributed to this glaringly obvious simple solution.

These elected representatives have committed to helping us solve the flooding issues in our localities and as we head into a very unpredictable winter  – It seems that our government representatives are powerless in the face of a bureaucracy that will take even 7 years to take a shovel to the ground. There is still no flooding forum, there are no proposed solutions, there is no communication.   Please communicate the current plan (or lack thereof) on fixing South Galway.

This work would fall into a minor work scheme. The farmer who owns the field, Paddy O’ Grady, who has been on flooding committees before, is extremely supportive of this work so the only thing really blocking the flow is action by our government bodies.

Call to Action!

This analysis didn’t cost 2 million to produce (I wish it did!). This channel is not going to cost 46Million to complete. Lowering the lip by 2.4m (the original level of the land)  would alleviate a huge amount of the flooding crisis for many townlands around the immediate Coole, Caherglassaun basins and also have benefits upstream.

The stress that the current situation is causing has not been removed.  Many hard-working people in this area are living with this fear and uncertainty and it’s time that our elected representatives get their act together and implement what has turned out to be minor work, reverting the landscape as it should be. 

I will be calling another meeting soon, gathering the people affected by this and looking for the support of these communities to compel our representatives to take action. I think the people of Coole, Killamoran, Roo, Garryland, Hawkhill, Gort, Glenbrack, Tierneevin, Crannagh, Ballnastaig, Corker, Raheen, Kiltartan and other areas affected won’t take this lack of support lightly.

Please share this post and raise the awareness of this simple solution.

-David Murray

 

Flooding in Cockstown, Tullira

Another area that has had a lot of hardship and flooding history is Cockstown close to Tulira and Labane.  Locals there have been reporting increasing flooding levels since 1980 and a history of poor flood management in the intervening years.

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The area of Cockstown, Tullira and Labane

The area in question is between Labane and Peterswell and can be approached by taking a right after Labane on the way to Galway and a right again.  It provides access to the main Galway road from areas such as Kilchreest, Castledaly and Peterswell.

During times of severe winter rains the area around Cockstown (west)  starts to flood. There is a karst hole in Gerry Nolan’s field that starts to swell and flood the surrounding land.  This is shown below:

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This overflow is probably the result of increased levels in Grannagh and Blackrock flowing through the underground system.  Grannagh swallow hole has been traced to Kinvara East springs (Source GSI) and this karst feature is along that directional path. There is also a connection between Grannagh Swallow hole and Kiltartan Rise (Polldeelin) and this passes close to the Cockstown Karst hole.

It may also be connected to Blackrock swallow holes as these have significant connectivity. This is shown below:

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In 1980 the locals reported flooding across the Cockstown road that locked access and flooded land both sides of the road. They were surprised when planning permission was granted for a house in 1982 and this flooded significantly in 1995 and was thereafter abandoned. Another house on the same plain got planning permission for an extensions which again had to be halted due to flooding.

The situation this past winter looked like this :

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When the water levels rose this area overflowed at the South-East end of Cockstown road and flowed toward Lissatunny/Tulira.

Flooding Impact

The key flooding crisis in area were:

Water quality: From previous flooding, the local water scheme in this area had very bad levels of coli-forms and was unusable in households. This has now been joined up with the Peterswell scheme.

Road Access:  Many of the roads around Peterswell, Castledaly were closed and this road would provide much needed connectivity to Labane and hence Galway and many people were put out. Also, the Ballyglass school bus could not pass this area.  The road itself was not massively flooded (Roadstone was bring 100s of lorries of stone through, throughout the floods, but it wasn’t destined for this road!) and despite multiple calls for this road to be raised – it remained underwater and impassable by cars, buses and eventually tractors.

The locals indicated that they would pay for the stone to give them access and in the end they would pay for the labour but this wasn’t sanctioned by Galway CC. The re was some reluctance over the 2 abandoned houses but the locals again, contacted the owners (via Parish Priest) and all was deemed ok – they still didn’t move on it.

Farmyard Access: Local man Gerry Nolan was badly impacted by the floods and his shed were inaccessible (and therefore unusable) for 3 months.  These sheds had been previously relocated on higher ground, but the water levels seem to be following (a very similar situation to many farmers in South Galway).  Gerry is very frustrated with the flooding situation now :

“I relocated the shed after the 1995 flooding but only 40% funding was available to me so it’s very difficult to see this shed not being accessible.  Also, I was signed up for a Glas scheme to sow trees but the area that was designated was underwater and would remain so until my deadline. I wrote to them to propose a new area that wasn’t currently flooded but they flatly refused and indicated that I shouldn’t have built on land prone to flooding – This land hadn’t flooded before. I’ve lost the scheme now  – so this puts even more pressure on the finances”

It’s a bit ironic that planning permission was consistently given in this area for houses and extensions to be built on known flooded areas but another government department is quick to point the finger when they incorrectly deem a local man to be negligent because of the flooding.

The bigger Picture

Where does the water go after flowing out of Cockstown?  It flows into Tullira and then more than likely into Labane which has some very critical flooding issues:

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Solutions

Firstly, what is the deal with the abandoned houses? Why are they not simply knocked down?

It seems reasonable to raise the road on the North side of the Cockstown road and ensure access to Nolan’s sheds.  This water is not flowing, and the displacement is very small and would be insignificant overall. The shed itself would benefit from an raise access route and a flood barrier.

Also because of the slow flow across the road toward Tulira, this road could be raised with a  small culvert or set of pipes to allow water to flow under, rather than over the road. This would permit full access across this road when many other roads in the area are closed.

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Another option that may be considered is linking this up with the Ballyglass scheme.  (over 1.5 miles away).  While this may not be considered feasible for this area, if you consider the potential linkage this has with Labane and that fact that it closes a major roadway for 11 weeks then this would be something that merits deeper investigation.