South Galway Floods : SGFRC Update #1

Hi !! Sorry we’ve been very busy these last 3 weeks and it’s time to do a quick recap of what is happening:

October Activity

It’s been a busy few weeks and here are the key points:

  • Formation of South Galway Flood Relief Committee
  • Minister Canney, OPW and GSI meet with SGFRC in Gort
  • MEP Matt Carty comes to Gort
  • Minister Naughten comes to Gort with TD Anne Rabbitte
  • MEP Matt Carty on GalwayBayFM
  • David Murray on GalwayBayFM
  • SGFRC in informal meeting with NPWS
  • SGFRC presents our case at National Flood forum
  • SGFRC in discussions with IFA
  • Highlighting of destructive roadworks in Caherglassaun
  • Liam Gavin wants to engage – no direct engagement yet
  • MEP Harkin meets David at the National Flood Forum
  • MEP Flanagan requests a meeting in Gort
  • Meetings with local County Councillors
  • Elected representatives

South Galway Flood Relief Committee (SGFRC)

At a meeting on Sept 13th with many members of the South Galway community (43 people) that were affected by the  flooding, and very frustrated with the lack of progress I was asked by those present to help drive for flooding solutions to South Galway and immediately formed a committee with representatives from mountain to sea – Blackrock to Caherawooneen.  Our members are :

  • David Murray (Kiltartan) – Chair
  • Tom Fahy (Peterswell)
  • Colm Burke (Skehana)
  • Micheal Cahill (Castletown)
  • Eugene Nolan (Corker)
  • Micheal Flaherty (Tierneevin)
  • Padraig Linnane (Killamoran)
  • Seamus Kelly (Roo)
  • Martin McInerney (Cahermore)
  • Joe Keane (Caherawoneen)

Our mission is to progressively drive the rapid delivery of solutions to alleviate flooding crises in South Galway – Slieve Aughty to Sea. And our key objectives are :

  • Raise awareness of the flooding situation in South Galway
  • Be a community voice for all those affected by flooding in South Galway
  • Ensure the priority of this situation is kept high
  • Work with Minister for Flood Relief to get the job done
  • Leverage our public representatives to ensure they deliver on their promises
  • Communicate and track the current status of flooding solutions progression
  • Deliver results through a well structured, organized and progressive approach

Minister Canney, OPW and GSI meet with SGFRC in Gort

We met with Minister Canney, OPW (Richard Dooley) and GSI ( Koen Verbruggen, Dr Ted McCormick, and Dr Owen Naughton) .  Our focus was to clarify the current priority that South Galway was being assigned, the current status w.r.t. the South Galway flood relief scheme and to ensure that both short and long terms solutions were being progressed.

Priority:

Minister of State Canney reiterated Irish Government commitment to the elimination of flooding in South Galway and that this commitment is a national priority and has been fully endorsed by An Taoiseach, Kenny.

The OPW will provide funding for flood relief and partners with the all Government Agencies as and when required for authorisation and support. An example of this partnership is the support being provided by the Dept. of Communication, Climate Action and the Environment in relation to scientific surveys of South Galway drainage system by Geological Survey of Ireland.

The Minister of State highlighted the awareness of flooding in South Galway within the Houses of the Oireachtas and that resolution of the issue will be independent of Irish Government composition going forward. At a national level the Government has made €430 million available to support flood resolution projects throughout the country over the next five years. This year there will be twelve major relief schemes funded and construction started compared to four in 2015.

Status:

In relation to South Galway,  Galway  County Council produced a report in June to their Councillors to set out all the different issues in relation to flooding  and minor works etc. A part of that was for Galway County Council to propose a South Galway scheme to the OPW to take drainage from east to west and include benefits, environment reports, isometric data, resource data and financials.    At the end of August (at the request of Minister Canney) Galway County Council produced a request for funding to the OPW and on the 30th Sept, the OPW wrote back and said that funding would be availableto proceed.  It was clarified by the Minister that the funding was to bring forward a scheme (not to implement same) and this included a funding for a senior executive to help manage the project.

SGFRC highlighted that they had never seen the proposed application and were not aware of it scope of what the funding was for.   Minister Canney indicated that he wasn’t sure if Galway County Council would show us an application – but they would show it to their local Councillors who should share it with us.   To this date this application has not been made public.

  1. Immediate Emergency Plan – flood relief works to remove the threat to homes, businesses and livelihood

Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb – “the windy day is not the day for thatching” – or loosely translated “no point in digging a drain when the field is flooded

  1. Long Term Plan – flood prevention – a future-proofed solution to eliminate the threat of flooding:
    1. No threat to Human Life
    2. No flooding of Family Homes
    3. No flooding of Farm Buildings and Industrial Buildings
    4. No flooding of Farm Lands
    5. No flooding of Roads – people cannot be isolated
    6. No flooding of Historical and Cultural landmarks – The Golden Jewels of South Galway
      1. No flooding of National Parks, Castles and Monuments
      2. No flooding of Natural Resources (worldwide unique sanctuary in Garryland)
        1. Special Protected Areas
        2. Special Areas of Conservation
        3. Natural Heritage Area

Immediate Emergency Solutions –/Minor works

SGFRC indicated to Minister Canney that if it takes 5-10 years for a full flood relief scheme then this condemns South Galway to at least 2 major flooding events. This is not acceptable to the community in general and the committee is seeking that work immediately progresses on emergency solutions and relevant minor works.  It was again highlighted that Athlone received €6 million for emergency flood relief defences in Athlone to fast-track flood relief and we wanted the same fast-track route.  SGCRF highlighted that recent developments around Caherglassaun would make it worse for the Coole-Kiltartan-Tierneevin-Caherglassaun area.

Cost-Benefit –Analysis

The SGFRC indicated that the flooding cost-benefit-analysis used for all schemes such as CFRAM, minor works etc. was not aligned to the real cost on the community.  The real impacts of land and farm buildings flooding,  loss of stock , loss of sprint grass, land requiring reseeding were not addressed in current Cost-Benefit Analysis.  The Minister stated that the OPW are currently holding a review of this and that this was also discussed with the Ger Gunning of the IFA recently.

Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI)

Koen Verbruggen (Director GSI) gave an excellent overview of GSI activities and SGFRC recognized the past works of Dr McCormick and Dr Naughten.   In the Program for Government GSI have been mandated to provide assistance in relation to Turlough assessment, to refresh data, to understand the water flows in different conditions and bring scientific intelligence such that OPW fully understand the workings and make the right decision as they develop solutions in South Galway

Assessing the effects of Coillte/Windfarms

The whole aspect of Mountain Operations on Slieve Aughty came in for extensive discussion.  SGFRC highlighted that there are an additional four wind farms planned for the Slieve Aughty’s coupled with extensions to existing wind farms. SGFRC highlighted that the various Governmental Agencies having both timber and wind operations have a necessity to rid the mountain of water as rapidly as possible – their drainage plan must include within scope the impact of releasing this water into to lowlands below and the catastrophic impact this is having. The SGFRC highlighted that their business case must incorporate solutions for the lowland and build it into their calculations and their cost-benefit analysis.

Key  Actions

  1. SGFRC to generate a high level summary of discussions that can be reviewed and approved by Minister Canney prior to public communication
  2. SGFRC to generate a short list of Immediate Emergency works and submit to Galway County Council for their attention
  3. Minister of State Canney committed to attend regular reviews with SGFRC that will focus on resource allocation, funds allocation, cost/benefit assessment and timeline for implementation
  4. Minister of State Canney to give update on review findings of current Cost-Benefit Analysis methodology used by OPW.
  5. Minister of State Canney will to work with Galway County Council to be more open in their engagement with the residents of South Galway
  6. GSI will work with Coillte to understand what level of monitoring and assessments are being done on hydrological impacts of current forest/windfarm management practices
  7. GSI will arrange meeting with SGFRC group to discuss plans for South Galway in more detail and have an information sharing session.

Acknowledgements

Thanks were given to Minister of State Canney, Richard Dooley (Manager Western Region at the OPW), Koen Verbruggen (Director at GSI), Ted McCormack (GSI) and Owen Naughton (GSI)

Thanks were also given to John Sullivan and staff at Sullivan’s hotel, Gort.

 

MEP Matt Carthy comes to Gort

MEP Matt Carthy met with the SGFRC in Gort on Monday 10th. SGFRC wanted to understand the habitats directive and the highlighted the fact that communities in South Galway AND residents of South Galway would benefit from reduced flood levels in South Galway.

The focus of the meeting was to highlight concerns of South Galway and to understand how a community can use the EU habitats directive to promoate and police the Irish Government response to  flooding.   MEP Carthy said that he would provide a step-by-step guide to the process and also to highlight our case to this Government.   Essentially he will help us to understand EU position on Habitats directive and our options of Europe.

mattc.JPG

 

 

Minister Naughten comes to Gort with TD Anne Rabbitte

Minister Naughten held a meeting in Gort with TD Anne Rabbitt on Monday 10th Oct. Most members of SGFRC were in attendance along as well as Councillor Joe Byrne.

IMG_3835.JPG
Minister Naughten and TD Anne Rabbitte

The key items Minister Naughten  highlighted were GSI’s Program for Government where they will help OPW in the analysis of Turloughs and provide analysis and recommendations to the lead agencies assigned to flooding.  [Both Dr McCromick and Dr Naughten have been seconded to the GSI for 3 years to work on turlough analysis and modelling].  David Murray asked if the Minister would committ to providing an analysis of the effects of rapid runoff from the mountain which is in line with Irish Forestry Service Code of Best Forestry Practices. (Chapter 5.7). The Minister declined to commit to this.

 

MEP Matt Carthy on GalwayBayFM

 

Listen to MEP Matt Carthy on Galway Bay FM Podcast [32:07]. 

He states that he met with SGFRC (who were a well organised and very well informed committee (Brownie points =MEP Carthy)).  He highlighted the failure of ‘official Ireland’ to  respond to flooding crises.  /he highlighted that not a single ‘meaningful’ work has been carried out in order to address the flooding issues and in some cases the works have actually made things worse.

gbfm.JPG

He did highlight the need to have maximum consultation with the local groups who know the issues on the ground.  You need to have the support of the local community before works are carried out. Everybody acknowledges that if there is a repeat of last year’s rainfall – we are looking at the same situation again.

He has written confirmation from the EU commission  that they will not block anything aimed at protecting a community against flooding.  The Irish Government have never actually applied to Europe for an exemption

 

David Murray on GalwayBayFM

David gave an interview [50:07] on Galway Bay FM about the flooding situation in South Galway.

Informal Meeting with NPWS

David Murray a brief, infomal and cordial meeting with NPWS.  In summary, the NPWS don’t bring people to task but define the SACs etc. and it’s up to the specific state body to comply with essentialy EU law (that has been replicated into Irish law). The key item highlighted by SGFRC was that we would be looking for NPWS to ‘enable’, as best they can, the development of solutions for South Galway which would be in everbody’s interest.   An example of producing guidelines (in conjunction with local community) on threshold levels for turloughts that won’t impact homes/livelihoods.

The NPWS are open to meeting with the committee and other meetings.

 

SGFRC presents our case at National Flood forum

forum.JPG

 

David Murray presented some of the issues around getting to a solution in South Galway.  He highlighted that the main challenge in South Galway is not getting the water to flow but getting through many levels of bureaucracy and inefficient processes.  He also called on the state bodies to have better community engagement. His key takeway was :

In order to deliver the best solution in the fastest time state agencies need deeper and collaborative involvement with local communities AS WELL as a stronger focus on inter-departmental collaboration

He highlighted that the most efficient method (which everybody wanted) of getting to a solution (which everybody wanted) was to get all parties involved as early as possible – including the local community:

slide1.JPG

TD Ciaran Cannon, and TD Anne Rabbitte were also at National Flood Forum and made representations for South Galway.  Minister Canney also presented and outlined increased levels of flood investment.

SGFRC Meets MEP Harkin at the National Flood Forum

A brief meeting with Marian Harkin to understand the European perspective on the Habitats directive and Special Areas of Conservation (SPAs).  In general, she thinks that ‘Europe’ is being blamed when in fact its not European issue.  She outlined the outer city bypass should have gone for the scheme under IROPI ( Imperative Reasons for Overriding Public Interest) which allows works to progress even if they have an negative  impact on environment.

Overall 18 IROPI requested have been submitted to the European Commission and only 1 has been refused.   Ireland have never submitted an IROPI request.

Informal Discussions IFA

The SGFRC Committee had discussions talks with IFA Flood project chairman Padraic Joyce and brough up several points that it would like to see addressed:

  1. Cost-Benefit-Analysis calculations need to be changed to take into account the impact on farm lands
  2. Fully supported relocation of farm buildings when no other option
  3. Compensation for farmers because of land flooding or when lands are used in emergency
  4. Protection of loss of Single-Farm-Payments for farmers whose land has been used in flood emergency

A meeting with IFA president Joe Healy is on the cards in the coming weeks to discuss

Highlighting impact of roadworks in Caherglassaun

The flood works in Caherglassaun were highlighted in a blog article to the media – and picked up by the Connaught Tribune (Front Page) , Clare Champion and Galway Bay FM.   The flooding drainage is inadequate to deal with flow of water (locals say 60m-70m – 1-2ft deep flowing across). This will increase maximum flood levels in Coole-Garryland-Caherglassaun and threaten 20+ houses.

MEP Flanagan requests a meeting in Gort

MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan responded to our communications a few weeks back and has requested a meeting in early November with the SGFRC.

Meetings with Local Councillors

Joe Byrne has been very proactive and helpful and attended 2 meetings and has liaised with Galway Co Council to clarify questions and set up a meeting with SGFRC. He helped to compile questions for Minister Canney and he has submitted a number of emergency works for OPW approval.  Councillor Michael Fahey also attended a SGFRC meeting

[Apologies to Joe, Michael as I previously forgot to add this to my growing list of meetings]

Representation

I think that our elected representatives Minister Sean Canney, TD Ciaran Cannon and TD Anne Rabbitte have been very proactive recently on this.  Minister Canney has reiterated his support and high priority for the South Galway Flood relief scheme.  TD Ciaran Cannon has asked several Parliamentary Questions and there are several more in the works, as well as helping formulate our approach. Anne Rabbitte has asked similar questions questioning the plan for South Galway and setup meeting with Minister Naughten.  Both TD Cannon and TD Rabbitte have strongly represented South Galway at meetings with OPW and Galway County council.

 

David Murray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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