Forestry and South Galway Flooding : Response

The SGFRC recently attended a meeting with Minister Andrew Doyle, Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture to discuss forestry impacts on flooding in South Galway. This meeting was attended by Minister Ciaran Cannon, Deputy Sean Canney and Deputy Anne Rabbitte and 3 members of the South Galway Flood Relief Committee, David Murray, Eugene Nolan and Michael Cahill. It was also attended by Kevin Collins of the Forest Service.

This meeting was held in response to a Letter Of Complaint published by the SGFRC and sent to the Irish Forest Service in February 2017. This letter can be found  here.

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The response has been outlined in an article in the Clare Champion

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Flooding solutions – Are we tackling the symptom or the cause?

It’s good news that a request for tenders for the design of a flood-relief scheme for South Galway/Gort Lowlands have been kicked off and there is a now a path to getting some flood relief in place in the next couple of years.  There has been a lot of work on all sides to get the wheel turning and momentum going.   And while I feel like taking a big breath and pulling up a cosy chair and watch it all unfolding – There is a voice of reality in my head and it is saying (Albeit reluctantly)  …

“…. It’s not enough ….”

If we just focus on putting flood mitigation in place then unfortunately, we are really just treating the symptom –  and our flood relief may only act as a temporary measure.  We need to have one eye cast also on the cause and if we are looking at the cause we need to look at how we manage the whole Slieve Aughty catchment area.  This is not a negative message, it’s a reality  -and the good news is that the EU has been one-step ahead here as it also wants us to start tackling the cause through the EU Water Framework directive and EU Floods Directive.

I think there are several aspects to overall flood solutions in South Galway, which can run in parallel.

  • Hard Engineering Solutions for flood relief  (e.g. overflow channels, culverts, bunds, swallow hole clearing)
  • Identification of flooding causes for South Galway and ensuring that we don’t exacerbate the problem – Let’s stop making it worse!
  • Retrospectively fixing or mitigating what we have done in the past and adopting overall better River Basin land Management
  • Ensuring our EU directives (Water Framework directive, flooding directive, habitats directive)  are working for us

Focusing on the Cause

Recently there were celebrations of  church at Kiltartan celebrated its 175th anniversary and it’s only in the past 20 years that this church has been prone to flooding.  What has caused this?

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I’ve talked to many people over the past number of years and the main thing that they are saying is that water is coming off the mountain much quicker than before.  They highlight changes that have occurred in this timeframe,  mainly forestry, Windfarms etc. and lay the blame squarely with them.   We have looked at these developments and in summary, there has been no consideration of flooding impacts in forestry or windfarms developments to date.  The general concensus is that the big corporations like Coillte (forestry) and ESB (Windfarms) did whatever they wanted to do with our mountain without any consideration for the impacts of the South Galway Community.

We are now in a position to ensure that there is future consideration of flooding impacts as part of EU Directives, but we, as a community need to ensure we highlight our concerns.

EU Directives

There has been a lot of work in recent years on EU initiatives (Water Framework Directive, Flood Directive, Habitats Directive)  to help protect our water, our health and our environment.  These directives are quite detailed and the SGFRC and other organizations are helping to understand how these relate to South Galway and raise the awareness of the damage of flooding to our health and environment. Our government is also trying provide infomration and knowledge thrrough the Environmenta Protection Agency,  Water and Communities and Catchments.ie

In the recent past Catchment Flood Risk Management (CFRAM) plans were very much focused on urban areas and we noted that areas like South Galway were left outside the scope of this analysis – which is why we had no CFRAM for the overall South Galway area.    It was easy to see the methodology used here – list all towns,villages towlands that have flooded, cutoff below a certain threshold and you automatically reduce your ‘Catchment’ to urban areas only.   Whereas if you summed up the properties affected on an  overall Catchment then this would tell the real story of flood risk on the catchment and community.

Being a large set of fragments villages and townlands  – South Galway didn’t even come close to causing a blip on Irelands Flood-Risk Management Plans – We didn’t make the cut! We have to ensure this doesn’t happen again and provide collective feedback on our flooding issue – [It’s also very simple to do!]

The SGFRC recently met with Catherine Seale, who is a Community Water Officer helping to demystify the Water Framework directives and catchment plans to the overall community.    Catherine has a brilliant understanding of the overall Water ‘Story’ and is very engaging and communicative.  She wants to ensure that communities give the feedback on their catchment to highlight any concerns or issues and the spotlight is really on the community to make their case.

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You can find more information on http://watersandcommunities.ie/draft-river-basin-management-plans-ireland-2018-2021/

She highlighted that there is an opportunity for South Galway to raise issues and concerns on the Slieve Aughty River basin as part of the Draft River Basin Management Plan (2018-2012)  but this needs to be done before end of August 2017

We need our community to highlight concerns about  flooding and water contamination. The EU Directives are ensuring that public consultation and involvement are key to ensuring our directives are relevant so this is now an opportunity to highlight feedback on flooding concerns in South Galway (or any catchment)

Please : Give you support

Timeframes are tight – the public consultation process ends at the end of Augst 2017 so we would ask you to please you take take a few minutes:

  1. Click on the link https://consult.watersandcommunities.ie/en/content/draft-river-basin-management-plan-ireland-2018-2021  or download the form Submission Form
  2. Add you details (name, address, contact information (will be treated anonomulsly)
  3. Add details about water area e.g. Gort River, Turloughs, lakes, Owenshree river etc
  4. Indicated what you interest is e.g. Flooding, Water Quality, Silt or Gravel
  5. Add details of your concern e.g. rapid runoff, roads being raised, swallow holes being blocked, etc.
  6. Add recommendations or suggestions as to what you think should done
  7. Submit the form (automaticlly from website) or
    1. By hand to:
      1. Your local Community Water Officer (Catherine Seale)
      2. By hand to the South Galway Flood Relief Committee.
    2. By post to:
      1. The Local Authority Waters and Communities Office, Civic Offices, Emmett Street, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, E91 N512. OR…
      2. River Basin Management Plan Consultation, Water and Marine Advisory Unit, Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Custom House, Dublin 1, D01 W6X
    3. By email to info@lawco.ie or RBMP@housing.gov.ie

Will it make a difference?

Yes it will. As of this moment, for instance, windfarms are not seen as a ‘Pressure’ (or impactor) on the water network.  After a significant landslide, the ESB Windfarm at Derrybrien put a ‘Robust-Drainage’ network  (over 18km of drains) -in place and constructed many kilometers of road – this resulted in a big change to the hydrology of the area – Surely this put a pressure on our Catchment and increases the risk of flooding

Without us highlightingthese situations then it is doubtful that Windfarms will added as an official ‘Pressure’ on Catchment basins.  However if we do highlight these and they are recognised as a pressure then they will, under EU Directives be forced to put measures in place to mitigate against the potential impact.  This is how we, as a community, can force this change and ensure that from now on – we don’t add to the hydroology changes and continue the damage in the Slieve Aughty mountains.

Please give your support, have you say and share! On behalf of the entire South Galway Community,

Thank you!

David Murray

– Chair, South Galway Flood Relief Committee

Major Milestone for South Galway Flood Relief Scheme

Galway County Council is seeking tenders from suitably qualified Consultant Engineers for the assessment and development of a flood relief scheme and other measures to manage the flood risk in the Gort Lowlands. The project will entail a Feasibility Study, Public Exhibition, Detailed Design, and Construction. The  South Galway Flood Relief Scheme Brief tender documents have been completed and are now up on the eTenders site. (It is possible to register as ‘public interest’ and access the PDF.)

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What is the project brief?

Galway County Council (GCC) is the lead agency with responsibility to progress a flood-relief solution but will not be involved in the design or construction of flood relief solutions. It will tender for engineering/construction companies to design and manage the construction of a flood relief scheme. The ‘Project Brief’ defines the scope of work for the project, process, deliverables, costing-Benefit methodology etc. It is a high-level definition of the project and is the starting point for any flood relief design scheme

In all the talk about flooding over the past 20 years, we have never had this type of progressive plan and momentum – so it’s a very positive milestone that we’re on the right path

How long has this taken?

It’s been almost a year since OPW requested that Galway County Council become the lead agency in progressing a flood-relief solution and in beginning of October 2017 Minister Sean Canney, and OPW approved funding to develop a project brief and assign a full-time project manager for this scheme.   Unfortunately, it took almost 3 months to assign a project manager amid the turmoil of Galway County Council losing their director of services, Mr Liam Gavin (RIP)  due to illness.

In January 2017, Mr Enda Gallagher, became project engineer for the South Galway – Gort Lowlands project and took up the reins and started to develop the brief. This is a complex area and there are complex relationships and dependencies (such as GSI providing Hydrology models)  and multiple stakeholders and the brief took several months to converge, toward end of April.  I think a few other things happened

  • There was new European environmental legislation being put into Irish law and the brief needed to reflect this
  • The brief was require to adhere to more of a CFRAM template
  • It needed to join the queue of OPW contracts to be finalized

So we are in August now and the project briefs has just been published. This has not been a patient wait for the people of South Galway but at least now we are at the official starting point and most deliveries from now on are a distinctive part of the contract.

This is a complex area and we’re prefer more up-front attention-to-detail (even in a brief) than taking shortcuts that would come back to haunt us later.

What happens next?

The next phase of this is that Galway County Council receive expressions of interest and tenders from Engineering Design Consultancy firms by 19th September 2017 and then selects one of these firms for the project.

 

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This firm will then complete

  • Feasibility Study (within 8 months of Commencement)
  • Design, EIS and screening
  • Public consultation
  • Detailed Design
  • Tendering
  • Oversee Construction
  • Project Handover

A rough timeline would be something like this.  The indeterminate times are times for approvals etc.

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The aim is to have diggers on the ground in 2020 which has been reiterated by Galway County Council and Sean Canney.

On the right path…

Even though we are still in early phases, we would like to acknowledge the support of Deputy Sean Canney for driving for this with support from Minister Ciaran Canon and Deputy Anne Rabbitte. Also acknowledgement to Galway County Council and OPW how have kept this in priority over the past months.  Acknowledgements also to our proactive County Councillors who continue to push for solutions and keep this as a priority for South Galway (you know who you are!)

We will continue to monitor this closely and we will continue to rely on you for support through this process – please continue your great support!

-David Murray

Chair  SGFRC  (South Galway Flood Relief Committee)