On 1st of October 2019 Deputy Anne Rabbitte penned the following Parliamentary Question.
Question Number: 168
Question Reference(s): 39512/19
Department:Public Expenditure and Reform
Asked by: Anne Rabbitte T.D.
To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of flood relief schemes to be introduced at various locations in South County Galway; the timelines for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) is undertaking a number of flood relief schemes in County Galway which are at various stages of design or construction. The projects set out below pertain to the south of the County.
Gort Lowlands Flood Relief Scheme
Galway County Council is leading on the development and implementation of the Gort Lowlands Flood Relief Scheme with the Council acting as the Contracting Authority for the project and funding provided by the OPW.
The combinations of river water, groundwater, swallow holes and turloughs in the karst Gort Lowlands catchment makes this area unique on an international level from an ecology perspective. Due to the intricate nature of the Gort Lowlands area, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and Geological Surveys Ireland (GSI) have been contributing to the development of the Scheme.
All hydrological modelling is due to be completed before the end of 2019 with feasibility and route selection assessment expected to be completed by early 2020. The Public Exhibition of the proposal will follow before being submitted to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for formal Confirmation under the provisions of the Arterial Drainage Acts. If the developed scheme is acceptable from an environmental and cost benefit perspective, it is possible that construction will commence in 2021 with an estimated construction period of eighteen months.
Portumna Flood Relief Scheme
Flood relief measures have been identified for Portumna in the Shannon Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Plan which was published in May 2018.
The Portumna Flood Relief Scheme is not being progressed in the first phase of investment under the Government’s €1 billion flood risk capital programme but will be progressed in the coming years and within the 10 year timeframe for the programme of investment.
The OPW is assisting Galway County Council with resources to enable the Council to progress Galway County flood relief projects.
If we remember – ‘Diggers on the Ground in 2020’ was the mantra at the start of this scheme – not ‘Yet another flooding report in 2020’
As we approach the end of Autumn, the signs are not looking the best. While we escaped Storm Lorenzo relatively unscathed, the reality is that our autumn rains have removed any potential buffers to mitigate flooding over the winter
August Rain has been 2 1/2 times the average
September rainfall has been almost 2 times the average
Our Turloughs are at winter levels already. With the reduction in the turlough buffer capacity, we now have a very high potential for flooding this upcoming winter
More Project Delays
We met up with Minister Moran on the driest day of the year on Friday 12th July this year to indicate the frustration of the local community to over 1 year’s delay in the 1st phase of the South Galway- Gort Lowlands Flood Relief Project – the project Feasibility study . This is what determines if we are really going to do something about the project or if it’s just going spit out yet another flooding report (Daly report, OPW reports and Jennings and O’ Donovan report) .
The Minister acknowledge the frustration on the delays as follows:
[Minister Moran] 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. – SGFRC Meeting July 2019
In recent communications with Galway County Council, SGFRC was informed that rather than the Feasibility ending in November/December as was supposed to (already 1 year behind) – it was indicated that a further delay was pending from 4-6 months! Which usually means 6 months! To be told 6 weeks before a deadline is due that it will now be 6 months is ridiculous.
SGFRC was well aware of the complexities of the project and some of the main delays were getting the right analysis platform and model in place in this unique situation dictated by the underground geology of South Galway.
We are not clear on the reasons so we have asked for further clarification on the delays. We know that the delay of 1 year was due to getting an accurate computer models of the topology and underground channel estimates, as well as additional work from the Public consultation process (Forestry analysis and salinity analysis)
This means that the delay is more than likely in the solution exploration. This is where you trial different sizes of channels, culverts etc, to maintain recommended maximum levels of the Turloughs (ones that don’t threaten flooding or isolation on our communities). This could be minor tweaking or exploration of different routes, etc. The worrying thing here is that if this is what is indeed delaying the project then it probably means that the solution is not coming easy – This may be because of cost-benefit or environmental constraints – which have always been risk factors in this project – Which will dictate if what we get is a solution or yet another report.
We informed (via email) our Ministers and elected representatives on this over 2 weeks ago – That’s directly to Minister Moran, and copied to Minister Cannon, Minister Canney and Deputy Rabbitte – To date, only Minister Canney has acknowledged this crisis and offered his support – As Minister Cannon and Deputy Rabbitte were copied – we would have expected at least an acknowledgement and support in some form a 6 month delay is a major setback to the project and a harsh blow giving the circumstances with our Turloughs already at Winter levels.
We expected a response directly from Minister Moran, who is directly responsible for OPW and Flood Relief – but no response has been forthcoming on the matter.
Galway County Council are due to meet with SGFRC in early November to get a snapshot of where we are, reason for the delays, outlook for the project. We then intend to host a public meeting on the 28th November 2019 @8pm in Sullivans Hotel , Gort to highlight the situation to South Galway Communities.
Credibility is rapidly diminishing on this project – If we remember – ‘Diggers on the Ground in 2020’ was the mantra at the start of this scheme and now it’s looking more likely that the only thing delivered in 2020 will be yet another report. This is disastrous for South Galway which will more than likely suffer yet another flooding crisis this winter.”
Please support (please like, share, comment, attend!) – Remember – It’s up to everybody to demand resolution for this project and push for timely solutions – not delays or reports.