As the South Galway Flood Relief project hits its first major milestone – (Publishing of Feasibility Study and Cost-Benefit analysis) the South Galway Flood Relief Committee (SGFRC) was seeking reassurances and commitments from Government and Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran. The SGFRC hosted a South Galway Flooding Meeting with Minister Moran, facilitated by Minster Ciaran Canon and attended by Minister Sean Canney and Deputy Anne Rabbitte and our newly elected County Councillors. The SGFRC highlighted some of the key risks at this stage were project delays, infeasible cost-benefit and environmental risks.
Minister Moran gave a heartfelt reassurance to the people of South Galway that he would leave no stone un-turned in getting this project delivered and assured us of full Government support. He has asked his department that the long awaited feasibility report be delivered by this Christmas and he will work with all involved to ensure that this produces a positive result. This was strongly supported by our other public representatives.
The SGFRC have indicated that this was a very positive outcome as we face into another winter and that we need laser focus over the coming months to produce a positive result and direction for South Galway that allows this scheme to progress.
South Galway Flooding Update Meeting – July 2019
11am on Friday 12th July in Sullivan’s Hotel Gort
- Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran
- Minister Ciaran Canon
- Minister Sean Canney
- Deputy Anne Rabbitte
- Cllr. Joe Byrne
- Cllr. Geraldine Donohue
- Cllr. Gerry Finnerty
- Cllr. Martina Kinane
- Cllr. P.J. Murphy
- Richard Dooley
- Eugene Deering
Members of South Galway Flood Relief Committee (SGFRC)
- David Murray (Chair)
- Eugene Nolan
- Colm Burke
- Pat Quinn
- Tom Fahy
- Michael Cahill
- Seamus Kelly
- Ray Fogarty
- Martin McInerney
Minister Ciaran Canon welcomed all attendees and indicated that South Galway was one of the worst affected areas in Ireland, not just with the last flood but over the past number of decades. He highlighted to Minister Moran that the South Galway Flood Relief Committee have been working very hard and in collaboration with OPW, GCC, GSI etc. to get a lasting solution. He highlighted the engagement model where, through the committee – local knowledge expertise was channeled to the solution experts and it was important for Minister Moran to meet with them. He indicated that we were very close to getting a lasting solution and that this meeting was where SGFRC identified the remaining obstacles between us and a successful solution.
He highlighted that Minister Moran has a deep understanding of flooding issues having dealt with this directly in Athlone and he is committed to finding solutions for South Galway and he has proven that he can do this.
Presentation by SGFRC
Goal of Meeting
David Murray clarified that if we look at overall flow, there are many challenges but our focus for today has to be to look at the 1st gating point – project feasibility. The Goal of the meeting was :
To ensure we have highest possibility of a positive result for our first phase of this project – Project Feasibility.
We wanted to communicate current situation, highlight key risks and request clarification and support from our public representatives on how to manage these risks to ensure we have a positive result for our first phase of this project – Project Feasibility.
We want to ensure that there are no ‘surprises’ in the coming months and we are not caught off the hop and we need a reaffirmation of commitments to this South Galway Flood Relief Solution
In 2016, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, visited the area of South Galway and reassured the people of South Galway that the Government were committed to finding a solution to flooding in the area. In 2016, the Minister of State for the OPW and Flood Relief, Sean Canney kick-started the South Galway Flood Relief Scheme proposal with GCC as lead agency. This is a very unique project with compelling challenges and complexities and there is a very strong team in place with OPW, Galway County Council (GCC), GSI and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) , Ryan Hanley (Design Consultants) and Mott-MacDonald (Environmental Consultants) – This is one of the most complex and world-leading science-based projects to have been undertaken. It has also been highly collaborative between the key stakeholders including SGFRC.
SGFRC would like to acknowledge the significant contributions of our the key departments and the support for all of our public representatives up to this point.
The project, unfortunately is a least a year behind plan after 1 year – mainly due to the complexity of the methodology undertaken (Hydrology model, LIDAR, Satellite + GSI Monitors).
The communities of South Galway however have growing concerns over this project – They are anxious every winter and the project delays are increasing the risk of communities suffering a severe flood event. As people can’t see anything tangible emerging – there is still a feeling that ‘nothing has been done’ on this. Our communities are expecting flood events every year and have to live with that and are beginning to lose faith over getting a flood relief solution.
One year delay in project – no more delays can be tolerated.
The worst case scenario for our communities in the short-term is the project doesn’t progress beyond feasibility and we get the expected severe flood events. This project will be relegated to yet another report that we wasted money on. This will cause a bitter disappointment in our long-suffering community and reputational damage to all involved. Our communities are expecting flood events every year and have to live with that
The current plan is to get to a project feasibility decision by December 2019 ( date supplied by GCC) – and we need to ensure this goes to plan and that we get a positive result for the communities of South Galway.
If we don’t get past the first gate the whole project will be an abysmal failure. No other project or other study has gotten beyond this gate in South Galway in 30 years. If we can remove obstacles to success , keep on top of this stage of the project and be proactive, not reactive – this will be the 1st time we have gone through this.
- Rigorous Assessment – we have to keep on top of this project and the risks.
- Be proactive – not reactive : We have to have answers up front and not wait for things to happen
- Very close collaboration – we need GCC and OPW and ourselves to work very closely with each other to minimise delay
Again the Feasibility study is our immediate gate an our highest priority challenge at the moment.
There will be other project risks in later phases but we the key obstacles for getting the project to get past the first hurdle here are:
- Project Delays
- Infeasible Cost-Benefit Analysis
- Environmental Issues
We are 1 year behind planned deadlines – However now we should be in a more predictable phase of the project currently as the solution simulations are progressing well. We have to ensure that we can deliver this on track (Dec 2019) to gain some trust back in the process.
The critical path of the project schedule will probably be TCD (Patrick Morrisey) who has to provide substantial input and feasibility reports of the Model methodology. We have to ensure that TCD is fully and singularly resourced to work at maximum capacity until year end. This is down to OPW and GCC.
Another key aspect is in the approvals process. According to the project brief, the approval for these reports could be a 7 week process and it may be that if all the reports come in mid-Nov – then there may not be the resources to approve them at the same time. We have to avoid the ‘throw’ it over the wall and then ‘throw it back’ weeks later – this needs to be much more streamlined and integrated process.
Infeasible Cost-Benefit Analysis
While SGFRC has good faith in Ryan Hanley in producing a comprehensive Cost-Benefit Analysis- they are still constrained by OPW Methodology which is not very suitable to a rural area like South Galway. Things like duration of flooding are not considered for homes (for Roads yes) or farms and it was highlighted some areas in South Galway remained underwater until mid-summer. Another area that seemed intangible was human health and the environment – SGFRC believes that these factors should be considered as part of the project.
While this hydrology model methodology will provide an opportunity to increase benefit (statistically accurate results for 1000+ years of rainfall events with Climate Change increased incorporated.) the costs will no doubt also increase.
There is concern that cost-benefit will be a project blocker as this has always been an issue for such a large rural catchment. We know the area is very unique geologically and may call for exceptional measures to ensure its implementation. The SGFRC want to know what options are there for this project?
The positive here is that the Design and Environmental Consultants are working closely together on this. The risk is that environmental issues have a strong potential to be project killers. There are 3 risks as follows:
- Ballynastaig Limestone Shelf (May need to navigate channels around this – Likely increase in Cost ) – Medium
- Caherglassaun Woods – Habitat Disruption -= (Low )
- Decreasing of Kinvara Bay Salinity – (Danger to commercial shellfish farmers ) – High
A negative result due to environmental issues will be a project killer and have wide-ranging reputational damage.
The assumption here is that alternates have been considered and exhausted between our Environmental and Design consultants but there is an unresolved Environmental issue that cannot be resolved. If the risk of an Environmental blocker is high then we must prepare contingency measures.
We could be seeing the following statement in a feasibility report.
SGFRC indicated the only answer to this (assuming no alternate solutions can be found) is that we consider IROPI?
(Due to time constraints we asked Cllr Byrne to provide synopsis on behalf of Councillors)
Cllr Joe Byrne indicated that the real crux of this will happen toward the end of November and that we need to clearly understand the process to move it to the next step. He indicated that when the approval processes goes to the OPW we need to know how it works so we can mitigate the delay and this includes later on the project needing to know how the actual ministerial consent process works. Also how is this project going to be delivered – is it direct to OPW or via works contracted out? He highlighted that its about understanding the steps and ensuring there is no delay between steps. Cllr Byrne indicated on behalf of the 5 County Councillors present that flooding is the biggest single challenge they meet on the ground in South Galway. He indicated the incredible work has been done over the past number of years but sternly warned that if a situation arise where we fail at an approval process – this will end up to be another report and the communities will have to deal with flooding into the future – and we cannot allow that to happen.
Richard Dooley, OPW indicated that the project is following a specific Cost-Benefit Methodology (as was outlined in the brief) . He highlighted that there are several aspects that the consultant will be looking at and asked for us to allow this process to run its course. Mr Dooley indicated that there is a steering board that is there to discuss issues. He didn’t think that there were going to be any Cost-Benefit surprises as he highlighted that this project was well managed and well communicated (by Enda Gallagher – Galway County Council Project Manager) .
Minister Sean Canney gave some background on the setup of the project and how it was setup outside of CFRAM and in many ways is ahead of CFRAM. He said that due to the complexity of the project, delays were inevitable but the good thing is that they delays were where people were solving problems. Due the reasons outlined previously, the project itself very unique (dedicated project manager, GSI, TCD etc) and it only of its kind setup in the county. He indicated the feasibility study may need to be worked through as Cost-benefit and environmental issues may require tweaking of the solution to fit constraints. For environmental risks the NPWS have been part of this project too. Minister Canny reassured the SGFRC that everybody is on board to a solution. He indicated that IROPI hasn’t been done often in Ireland and he mentioned it could be a lengthy process (his experience with Galway Port and that it was 7 years in progress) . He highlighted that we have been steadily working on this with the best team available, things have been done right so far and indicated that we should stay going like this. He indicated the importance of the SGFRC is helping the South Galway Community understand what’s going on and this is vital to help streamline the process. The last thing that Minister Canney wanted to leave behind him was a report and he is fully committed to supporting full delivery of project.
David Murray, SGFRC acknowledged the work that Minister Canney has done to setup the project like this and it’s working extremely well. He indicated that we are not asking to deviate from the process, but when all is said and done – if we don’t make CBA then what are our options?
Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran started by thanking SGFRC for the invite and Minister Cannon for organizing and for participation of Minister Canney and Deputy Rabbitte. He indicated that he has come from a ‘flooding’ background in Athlone and his first task in the OPW was to deliver on CFRAM and then get funding in place (10 year – €1 billion Funding) and has increased the number of CFRAM from 35 to 95, indicating his commitment to flooding relief. He agreed with Minister Canney in that the South Galway Flood Relief Scheme was an extremely unique scheme and there was going to be a lot of learning involved.
Minister Moran acknowledged the work the SGFRC has done and understood our concerns for the risks that were highlighted and anticipated that we just wanted to see shovels in the ground. He reassured the SGFRC that if there any obstacle that he should know about then he will commit to coming out and discuss it. He agreed that the feasibility analysis has to run its course.
The minister expressed annoyance about the delays (a year too long) and that this was concerning for the community (who is only days away from a flood) . He highlighted some of the work that he has been involved with in other flood schemes and has looked at different options (direct labour) or breaking up bigger projects into more viable bits.
Minister Moran was very clear in saying that he is fully behind the community and this project and will support us fully. He acknowledged the frustration of the delays but recommended the SGFRC to wait (even though its hard) and that November is not that far away but let the project run its course. He did state (to OPW reps) that he wants to see the reports, with positive news before the Christmas.
David Murray, pressed on the concern of a potential gap in Cost-Benefit and if there was wiggle room for a project to still go ahead. Minister Moran responded in that that there is always wiggle room but we will have to wait for the feasibility report before we know what next step is. He said that these issues are very similar to other flood relief schemes and he and his department works through them. He indicated that there is a huge drive (not just from team, minsters etc) but by Government to address these issues. He indicated that he would be disappointed if hewas told the scheme couldn’t go ahead. He has found ways of delivering projects. Once the feasibility reports come out he will work with the deputies and the SGFRC and if there are obstacles – work through them at that stage. At this stage he can’t give carte-blance commitments or ministerial orders but reassured SGFRC that he has successfully worked through issues like this in the past. Once the port comes out – Minister Moran will give it his full attention.
Minister Ciaran Cannon indicated that the support from Government was rock solid and has been since Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s visit to South Galway when he spend 7 hours visiting the community and committed to push for a solution to eliminate this issue. He indicated that the current program for Government is fully committed to solving flooding issues and there is more investment now than we have since the history of the state. During the week Minister Canon met with Finance Minister Pascal Donoghue to discuss some points in relation to flooding and he confirmed that there was and won’t be any flood relief investment impact do the to the National Children’s Hospital funding. Minister Moran confirmed that there had been no impact due to delays in funding for certain flood relief schemes – but which are fully budgeted in the coming years budget.
Deputy Rabbitte again acknowledged the trojan work that the SGFRC are doing behind the scenes. She highlighted the issue of Cost-Benefit analysis on rural communities like South Galway which is spread over a huge area. She questioned Minister Moran on the 95 projects that the OPW has he has gotten over the line – how many were rural –
Minister Moran confirmed that none of these were rural projects but that the catchment as large and there are benefits which can get from this ( houses, people and farms) again indicated that critical part now was to get the reports out before we take the next steps.
Deputy Rabbitte queried that if reports highlight solutions and we get flooding – could action be taken from these reports. Minister Moran indicated the when the feasibility report comes out, this will get a high priority. This a very unique scheme and will have huge benefit to the communities and Government is behind delivery of this scheme.
Minister Moran clarified that when the report is delivered, he will come back down to South Galway to discuss. Many schemes have issues with objections and so non but he and every public representatives want this scheme delivered and shovels on the ground as soon as possible.
David Murray, agreed that once we get past the Feasibility reports, there are a whole new set of problems to face but for new the focus was to get the feasibility over the line and was reassured that this was going to get close scrutiny in the coming months. This he said needs laser-focus over the next 6 months.
Seamus Kelly, SGFRC mentioned that one unique aspect of this area was the duration of flooding. Many flooding issues are short-term but in South Galway, water can be on the land for months and access can be restricted and this had to be taken into account. Some school journeys went from being a mile to becoming a 40 mile journey. David Murray indicated that there was one area around Tarmon/Rathorp where a road only reopened in May after the previous winters floods. This needs to be considered in a case for Cost-Benefit Analysis.
David Murray, also indicted that the environmental aspect needs to be considered. He said that if we can save farmyards and slatted houses being washed into SACs then this needs to be added to the overall benefit of a flood relief solution. If there are gaps in Cost-Benefit there is a big case here to bring the environment into play to bridge this gap.
Minister Moran reiterated that farmers trying to get to their land, kids having to get to school and people trying to get to work, over a period of 13 weeks is not acceptable. He indicated that before many people were blaming National Parks and Wildlife but currently they were working very closely now with them on many different projects.
Eugene Nolan, SGFRC was very appreciative of the meeting and the Minster coming down to give the assurances. He said that he feels very reassured that there is huge support behind the scheme. He indicated the level of collaboration between local community, Galway County Council, OPW and our public representatives is a prototype of how it should be done. It has been really beneficial bringing in the science and the reason for the delays is that we are breaking new ground. If this is a prototype of how Government wants to do business then we’ll have huge egg on faces if this thing fails and becomes another report. He indicated that we do seem to be on the right track.
Cllr Gerry Finnerty thanked all for coming and highlighted the suffering of people here. He also acknowledged the commitment of the OPW and delivery of a wide range of minor work schemes. He indicated that this was a very complex area and offered an invited to Minister Moran to come down over the summer and meet with the SGFRC and visit some of the communities that have been flooded.
Cllr Joe Byrne had one key request was for OPW/GCC to work very closely so that we can accelerate the decision making.
Minister Moran acknowledged the work of Richard Dooley of OPW who has been working on the ground here. He also highlighted the important work of the local/public reps and indicated that Galway County Council was the best council in the country for progressing minor work schemes – again in collaboration with the Ministers department (OPW)
He summarized his trip down here was to let the communities know that he is fully supportive and that the government is behind getting a flood relief solution. He won’t leave a stone un-turned – He indicated annoyance at the delay but when he was briefed on the complexity, he understood, but he wants no more delays now and he wants the reports and wants to come back down with it and discuss.
Chair, South Galway Flood Relief Committee