Almost to the day of the anniversary of the 2015 winter flooding, the South Galway community, represented by the South Galway Flood Relief Committee (SGFRC), met with Galway County Council at their December 2016 Loughrea Municipal District meeting in Loughrea last week.
Galway County Council Cathaoirleach Cllr Jimmy McClearn opened the meeting and highlighted that Minister Sean Canney had requested that the SGFRC be invited to make a deputation to Galway County Council elected representatives and Engineering officials.
David Murray, the Chairman of SGFRC introduced the committee (13 members) and their representative areas in South Galway. Before the deputation Murray expressed, on behalf of the committee, condolences to Galway County Council members on the untimely loss of their colleague and friend, Liam Gavin and indicated that the committee had been looking forward to working with him on this project.
The committee highlighted that their objective is to progressively drive the rapid delivery of solutions to alleviate flooding crises in South Galway – Slieve Aughty to Sea. They then gave an overview of the flooding situation in South Galway and some of the key factors involved with this flooding, namely:
- Poor management of the Slieve Aughty Mountains leading to rapid water run-off
- Water flow congestion (Pinch Point) at Kiltartan
- Lack of overflow channel (Storm drain) between Coole lake and the sea
- Poor overland drainage for satellite areas of Tarmon, Labane, Roo, Ballyboy.
The South Galway Flood Relief Committee outlined that the community of South Galway wanted two aspects addressed by the Galway County Council, the lead agency with responsibility for developing flooding solutions in South Galway.
Firstly, a) they want emergency works that would lessen flooding impact if it happened again in the near future and secondly b) they want to ensure viable and fast-tracked long term solution. The committee also went on to highlight their expectations of the development of a solution for South Galway and indicated that there needed to be a significant collaborative effort and a human-centric and pragmatic approach to the solution development. Collaboration was a highlighted topic and some examples were given of failed projects due to lack of collaboration (Tarmon) and how this wouldn’t have happened if people had sat around the table.
SGFRC gave an overview of some of the people and organizations that they have met in the previous months including Galway East TD and Minister of State for the Department of Office of Public Works and Flooding, Sean Canney, MEPs, TDs, Locally elected Councilors, IFA, OPW, NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Services) and that there had been very productive talks with these people. As an example of progress, after several meetings between the NPWS and the SGFRC, there was very good progress on several different aspects relating to the environment, querying forestry practice and identifying recommended maximum Turlough water levels.
The SGFRC highlighted that it wants to be involved throughout the process, from Design Brief, Project Solution Design, Cost/Benefit Analysis and through every stage of implementation and believes that key stakeholders should be involved to ensure consensus agreement at each phase of the project and understand the status and progress of the project.
“With today being the 1-year anniversary of the devastating floods of South Galway, this meeting was a long time coming and we have witnessed tensions rise in the South Galway community in recent months” said Murray. “We feel, however, that this is as a very positive first step, in conjunction with assurances from Minster of State Canney in October, we were further reassured by Galway County Council on their commitment to deal with flooding in South Galway, once and for all”.
Galway County Council Engineering Team, including Director of Services, Senior Engineers and Engineering Project Manager, were in attendance to receive SGFRC deputation. The committee also received strong support from our local Councillors Joe Byrne and Michael Fahy and also unanimous support from Councillors Canning, Donnellan and Maher. Both Councillor Michael Fahy and Cathaoirleach Cllr Jimmy McClearn declared that SGFRC presentation was without doubt the most professional deputation ever presented to Galway County Council. The Council also acknowledge the positive input that the late Liam Gavin had on this project.
“This meeting between Galway County Council and the SGFRC was extremely positive and is a watershed for South Galway flood solution development”, said Councillor Joe Byrne. “In fairness, the presentation by the SGFRC was exceptional. The County Council is fully supportive of collaborating with the SGFRC and I think we all will get great value from this engagement.”
Galway County Council will meet with the SGRFC again in early January and have committed to keeping this item on the top of their agenda in their monthly meetings until solutions are implemented.
Murray is positive about the engagement going forward. “We all want the same thing – we want to get rid of the flooding. We have the first real commitment and positive momentum to resolving a flooding problem that has been devastating the extended South Galway community over the past 30 years. We acknowledge Minster Canney’s drive and enablement of this project these past three months. It is certainly early days, we couldn’t have asked for a better first engagement, we will keep the momentum up and ensure we get the right solutions in place.“
The South Galway Flood Relief Committee believe that the effort and expenditure over the coming years must deliver a future-proofed solution, avoid the mistakes of the past and deliver a full solution resolve the flooding challenges.