The waters are still rising in South Galway as many communities once again are experiencing the threat of flooding. Images of Thoor Ballylee under flood were getting plenty of comments and ire from the public – especially with the tag line ‘Are we worth it?’ . To see this priceless heritage site awash with flood scum has many people bubbling with anger.
- “Work should have been done on this long ago. A bit of a disgrace!“
- “This is such a beautiful area and this is so sad to see it once again being flooded “
- “Such an iconic piece of history such a shame. This flood relief needs to happen sooner rather than later.”
- “It’s a disgrace!! 5 years ago this happened and here we are again!!! NOTHING has been done!!!!“
Please put yourself in the shoes of the community of volunteers that have brought the castle back to its former glory, who have worked very hard, fund-raised for it, cleared and cleaned it during the last flooding, only to have to face into this again come spring time. Flooding saps the spirit and that’s what it will do here, and anywhere flooding happens.
The frustration starts to bubble when we know that there are solutions to this. Many people have mentioned controlling water upstream through better forestry practices or planting Native woodland as well as Turlough level management from mountain to sea.
In 8 weeks time we should have a Feasibility Report and we are confident that there are real solutions available which should mark the end of serious flooding in South Galway. But before we run off and celebrate, Galway County Council and the OPW need to have one question answered.
“Is South Galway Worth Saving?
Yes – That’s essentially what it comes down to! Will the benefits to the community outweigh the spend/cost? From looking at the toll that that this places on rural community, you would think so – unfortunately – it depends on how you measure the ‘benefit’.
What we do know is that the method that the OPW use to measure benefit is mainly used for urban projects and it hasn’t been quite adopted for South Galway. So, with this method, a house that floods overnight (and gone the next day) would be treated the same as a house that floods for 6 weeks. A road closed for 1 week offers a specific benefit but this doesn’t scale to community of 13 houses that is isolated for 56 days (Rinrush), or the effect of 22 roads paralyzing an entire community. Farms, farmers and farm buildings – they don’t seem to be covered by this urban-based model. Also not covered are the intangible affects on communities (and some of these are the most devastating)
- Damage to physical and/or mental health, death or injury
- Isolation and loss of community
- Worry about flooding
- Worry about loss of livelihood (farming in particular)
- Damage to the environment (Coole and all the SACs)
- Damage to cultural artifacts (Ballylee, Coole)
- Loss of memorabilia and irreplaceable items and pets
- Loss of confidence in authorities and services
The South Galway Flood Relief Project has brought a lot of analysis to bear. We know potential flooding levels, duration’s and the project consultants (Ryan Hanley) have endeavored to include as many benefits and apply it to this flooding situation – including the duration of flooding -to help get the benefit we need.
I get the impression that the Design Consultants and project team are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to interpreting the benefit of a flood relief solution to the community of South Galway. The decision what’s in and what’s out of the methodology, the ‘pruning’ on the benefits however, will be done in a dry OPW office in Dublin.
It is this very decision however that will stop or progress this project, to use the tried and tested but somewhat irrelevant methods or to adapt to the situation and use realistic measurements and to add significant weight (and benefit) to the intangibles.
Even if Cost-Benefit doesn’t measure up – who cares? Just write off the balance and get the job done. So yes, there may be a gap e.g. we could be €5-$6 million short? Would that stop the project. Absolutely – yes … if ‘Government’ doesn’t step in and sign off on it.
One thing that has been echoing all around South Galway is that the Government has already signed off of €5 Million … on fines paid to the EU Court of Justice, for the Derrybrien Windfarm debacle. It also has an an additional daily fine of €15,000).
Its just so ironic – our committees are subject to meticulous (but misfocused) measurements to proof our worth while, at the same time, so much money is being thrown away on fines for the ESB Derrybrien Windfarm. This windfarm could be contributing to the floods but its impossible to know because they didn’t to a proper Environmental Impact Analysis – which is why they got fined in the first place!
All eyes will now focus be on the Galway County Council/OPW report and it will be the responsibility of our public representatives (Ciaran Cannon, Sean Canney and Anne Rabbitte) to ensure our government (whenever it forms) bridges any gap. Maybe we should go all he way to the top and just ask President Higgins to deliver on his previous promises by presidential decree.
It’s time to finally decide the right course for South Galway. It’s time to stop revisiting this every 5 years and doing yet another expensive report. We have a real opportunity to progress a flood relief solution that will stop this recurring nightmare. Our communities are well worth saving – irrespective of any cost-benefit analysis.