Winter water levels and more Flood-Relief delays leave South Galway exposed

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’

Advertisements

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

 

southgalwayrainfall
The cumulative rainfall for the year – all was normal til July but August-Sept rainfally has filled the basins of South Galway to winter levels
img_2051-1
Coole Lake rising to toward the water pump – Winter levels

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.

Reasons

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.

Response

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.

Clarity

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.

Thank you,

David Murray

Chair : South Galway Flood Relief Committee

Will our wet August increase flood risk in South Galway?

It was hard to imagine the past month was actually part of our summer. We had fine weather for most of June and July and August 2019 came blanketed in rain.  According to Met Eireann, Athenry station, the average August brings about 107mm of rain. August 2019 brought 286mm.  In fact this is over 2 1/2 times the amount of rain we normally get!

You can see this in the graph from Met Eireann below.

august_rainfall

What about the overall summer though?

summer2019_rainfall

Things average out a bit better because we had a drier July than normal however, even averaged over the 3 months it’s still over 1.5 times the rainfall we normally get.  If we look at the how the rainfall has been accumulating over the entire year, then we get this.

We had a drier new year but then a wet March caught up with us and May was a very dry month, bringing us below average.  Before August rainfall was just below average for the entire year but the 286mm catapulted us well above average for the year. In fact if we didn’t get any rain at all September, then wed be back on track – but listening to the rain outside – this is unlikely to be the case.

2019_rainfall.JPG

Flood Risk

While it good to have the stats, the slightly worrying thing here is that August has brought the South Galway Turloughs up quite high and as many of the local  communities know – we want these as low as possible coming into the winter.

Normally, it’s from end of October that the ‘chatter’ starts up around flooding. People are more aware of it and the tensions start to notch up when we get heavy persistent rain. That chatter has already started and as we just start the Autumn, possible winter flooding is on peoples mind.

The August Rainfall will take several months to get through the system and in fact the lower Turloughs of Caherglassaun will probably only peak in the next week or 2.  Here’s hoping that September and October will turn thing around again and bring back a sense of normality.

Plan

The current plan is that the South Galway Flooding Analysis, Initial design and feasibility study is completed by the end of this year.  This is something that the South Galway Flood Relief Committee (SGFRC) brought to attention with our elected representatives (See Minister Moran will leave no stone un-turned when it comes to delivering a Solution for South Galway)

zoomin

 

 

 

 

We highlighted that there were 2 key risks to the project at this stage that we needed to get through to get to Feasibility Study

  1. Poor Cost-Benefit Analysis could halt the project
  2. Risk that Environmental factors would block our flood-relief project

We sought and got commitment from Minister Moran and our other elected representatives (Minister Ciaran Cannon, Minister Sean Canney and Deputy Anne Rabbitte as well as our newly elected County Councillors), on getting to a long-term solution for South Galway Flooding.   They are all firm in their commitments so we need to wait a few more months until we get the feasibility study to allow us to progress to full design and public consultation.

Thank you for reading this and please remember that by sharing and liking this, you help keep this issue to the fore where it needs to be to get the attention that the South Galway Communities need for a long term solution

-David Murray

Minister Moran will leave no stone un-turned when it comes to delivering a Solution for South Galway

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

Logistics

11am on Friday 12th July in Sullivan’s Hotel Gort

Attendees

Ministers/Deputies

  • Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran
  • Minister Ciaran Canon
  • Minister Sean Canney
  • Deputy Anne Rabbitte

County Councillors

  • Cllr. Joe Byrne
  • Cllr. Geraldine Donohue
  • Cllr. Gerry Finnerty
  • Cllr. Martina Kinane
  • Cllr. P.J. Murphy

OPW

  • 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

Opening Statement

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

Background :

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_meeting_scope.JPG

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.

Current Situation

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.

delays

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

zoomin

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

Project Delays

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.

zoomin1.JPG

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.

cost_benefit_analysis

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?

Environmental Issues

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
  • Other…

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.

conclusion

SGFRC indicated the only answer to this (assuming no alternate solutions can be found) is that we consider IROPI?

Round-Table Discussions

724c11ba-45f8-4499-bdad-37ce10f372f7

(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.

Closing comments

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.

David Murray,

Chair, South Galway Flood Relief Committee

 

Derrybrien Windfarm debacle could now cost us well over €4 million and rising

If this penalty application gets through in December – the Irish Government will have to pay over €4,168,000 into the ‘European Union own resources’ account and then continue to pay €10,000 per day thereafter.

From a previous article, Derrybrien Windfarm – Government and ESB treating us like fools,  we highlighted that the Irish Government was treating us like fool as European fines were mounting up on a daily basis – The situation looks a lot worse!

Here is the story so far: (In short)

  • In 2003, The Derrybrien Windfarm Developers (ESB – 95% owned by Irish Government)  didn’t do a proper Environment Impact Analysis for their development and proceeded with development and caused a massive landslide
  • In 2008 : After analysis the European Courts ruled against Ireland with a court order to reassess the Environmental Impacts and put in proper mitigation in place.
  • In 2008, the Irish authorities informed the Commission that the wind farm operator  (ESB) had agreed to provide an updated environmental impact assessment
  • In Jan 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a statement which indicated that Ireland would face fines of over €2m.  The court stated that even at this late stage, a full EIA must be conducted, which must include full consultation with residents, industry and other relevant stakeholders.
  • In April 2019, a That leads up to last Monday when the CJEU met in Luxembourg on the case. The full contingent of Judges (15) were there to listen to Ireland’s progress since January last year – it wasn’t great and the Irish Government was harshly critizied as it had not acted to implement the earlier judgment and there was quite some disbelief that Ireland could/would not act more decisively against a 95% state owned company. (ESB)
  • On 13 June 2019 an Application for an order to pay a penalty payment and a lump sum)  was proposed by the Advocate General to the Court and the picture is a lot starker.

Irish Government Response (or lack thereof)

Before we dive into the money – an interesting point to consider is that Richard Bruton Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment is also responsible the the ESB (well 95% responsible anyway) and obviously responsible for the Environment – so – this should have been easy as the buck stopped there.  After the April 2019 Judgement, frustrated by Government in-action I compiled a set of questions that I wanted the get answers to:

  • What progress has been made over the past 11 year and specifically, what actual progress has made in the past year, since the EU indicated potential fines of €2Million and 12K/day thereafter?  
  • Why does Ireland seem unprepared and unprofessional in this. (To quote an EU environment enforcement officer ” There was quite some disbelief that IE could/would not act more decisively against a 95% state owned company. ” What is causing this delay?
  • As its likely that we will now receive harsh fines – Who will be footing this bill? Will this be the ESB or the Irish Government?
  • What are the Governments plans to rectify this and when will this happen?

In order to get clarity I asked our local Fianna Fail TD, Deputy Anne Rabbitte to help get some clarification here and I asked her to frame some Parliamentary questions about this to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.  This she did and this was the response from the Ceann Comhairle 

“I regret to inform you that I have to disallow the (questions) … The Minister has no official responsibilities to Dail Eireann for this matter and is a matter for the ESB which is independent in its functions.”

parlimentaryQuestions

We are not allowed to ask questions about a potential large penalty to be imposed on the Irish Government by the European Court of Justice on an environmental infringement.  We are told we have to leave it to the ESB, a company 95% owned by the Irish Government, who promised to carry out an Environmental Impact assessment over 11 years ago because it is independent in its functions.

I can see how the European Court of Justice as critical of Irish Government governance = tail wagging dog

 

 

Potential Penalties

This is only an application and the final judgement will be given in a few months time, likely be the end of the year.  This application has proposed

  • A lump-sum fine calculated at a rate of €1000/day from the date of the Court Order to the date of final judgement
  • A daily penalty of €10,000/day from the date of final judgement until the matter is fully resolved.

This isn’t news (we have always known) that this was coming down the road – ESB could have avoided this – The Irish Government could have avoided this by just doing the EIA.

If we say the final judgement will be 1st December 2019. That’s exactly 4168 days since the Court Order. (3rd July 2008)

If this penalty application gets through in December – the Irish Government will have to pay over €4,168,000 into the ‘European Union own resources’ account and then continue to pay €10,000 per day thereafter.

Note :  This amount is 3 times the normal amount we should be paying because of the lack of response – Ireland got the maximum multiplier factor of 3 for this.

How does this relate to flooding in South Galway?

The original EIA of the wind-farm indicated that there would be no additional drainage on the 4sq KM site on the main Slieve Aughty Peak.  After the landslide happened the developers put in place a ‘Robust-Drainage‘ Scheme, which involved digging 6ft x 8ft drains from each of the 71 turbine bases .  Overall, the drainage of the site was impacted by:

  • 200 Hectares of forest was clear-felled
  • Over 30 km+ of drains were dug
  • Over 17km of roads were constructed
  • 71 turbine bases were dug out and  constructed

With no impact assessment – how knows the effect the wind-farm has on the drainage but if you now consider this picture you can see why Derrybrien, Gort and South Galway communities should be concerned.

derrybrien_rivers_gort.JPG

The severe flooding in Gort in 2009 was from the Gort River which comes down from this area.

The South Galway Flood Relief Committee want the same thing as Europe here – a proper assessment on the impacts of mountain operations in this area and retrospective mitigation to ensure that potential flooding impacts from the wind-farm are mitigated in some way.

The real frustration here is that rather than than investing in flood mitigation ware are throwing away money having to pay these penalties because organizations that could be contributing to the flooding won’t do the proper assessments and the Irish Government is standing idly by as money pours down the drain  – Meanwhile the South Galway Flood Relief project has a risk of not progressing because it could be deemed to be too costly

This is something that we need to get vocal about as this is our money we are wasting and our flooding solution that could be in crisis.  Please share!

Thanks,

-David Murray

 

 

For more information on the Derrybrien Windfarm Saga :

 

Notes:

  • There are other groups in South Galway are affected by the Windfarm landslide also. This has not been touch up under the South Galway Floods Blog.

 

South Galway Flood Relief Scheme : Update – June 2019

We are entering in a critical decision-making phase of the project as Hydrology model is complete and feasibility is well under way

It’s that time of the year when thoughts of flooding are far from people’s minds – but we will soon be reaching a critical phase of the project and we need to keep a close eye on this as we hit our first gating point of the project.

The next 6 months will include critical decision-making as the Hydrology model is complete and feasibility is well under way – targeting Project Approval by end of this year – but there are still risks that the project will not be approved.

The current feasibility study is over 1 year behind and we should not tolerate any more slippage.  South Galway communities cannot tolerate more project delays and spill the approval into 2020

South_galway_flooding_solution_timeline_q22019

From talking to GCC recently the hydrology model is being used extensively to assess flooding scenarios and look at effects and impacts of different mitigation strategies – so we are now in a more predictable stage of the project and it will take another few months to converge on a preferred solution.  The models are being run by Trinity College Dublin (Who have developed the model) based on sized channels provided by Ryan Hanley – the Design consultants. This is an iterative process as tweaks are made to channel sizes, culvert sizes etc.   TCD will also be involved in completing Climate Change analysis and assisting in salinity analysis.  Once a solution has emerged then there are several reports to produce (as outlined in the project brief)

  • Hydrology Report
  • Flood Risk Management Plan
  • Feasibility Report
  • Final Report (Cost-Benefit-Analysis, EIAR, Recommendations)

This is a rough picture of the timeline for 2019.

timelime_zoom

There are a significant amounts of information to compile and this should be done by Mid-November 2019 after which it moves into an approvals stage and we should have decision on Feasibility of the project by end if 2019.   It is important that Galway County council keep to this schedule.

There are also many approvals required for these reports – something that if not planned  correctly could run into months. This process involves our Design Consultants (Ryan Hanley) ,our Environment consultants (Mott MacDonald), Trinity College Dublin, and the project Steering board (including the OPW) and need to be managed properly by Galway County Council,

Dead in the water?

If people remember back to the infamous  2010-2011 ‘South Galway Flood Study Report‘ by Jennings – O’ Donovan, within which they deemed the project as ‘infeasible‘ and along with it – flood relief measures were canned. This was mainly a cost-benefit issue where they tagged a €45 million cost to the project – without working out any clear benefit.

At the same time – the Tarmon Flood relief proposal did not proceed because of Environmental Issues

So aside from risk of delays, we face these same risks at the moment as the potential project killers are Cost-Benefit issues and environmental issues.

The cost-benefit is being worked out by using the hydrology model along with Rainfall events.  We are really hoping that the real impacts and frequency of these flooding events will be reflected in the benefit.

The Benefit will not be calculated from past flooding but from predicted future flooding and will include climate-change modelling – which should give us a potentially larger benefit

If the benefit is less then the cost then the project will be deemed financially infeasible and not proceed.  In order for it to proceed – this will require Ministerial intervention which has been promised to us in the past. Will these commitments be honored in this case?

Also another key issue is around the Environmental Constraints that have been identified by Environmental Consultants:

    • Limestone Shelf in Ballinastaig
    • Habitat in Caherglassaun SAC
    • Kinvara Bay

The solution will need to consider these aspects thoroughly and ensure there is minimal impact.

Team Alignment

The South Galway Flood Relief Committee (SGFRC) invited our new elected County Councillors to an update/alignment meeting on Wednesday 5th June in Sullivan’s Hotel to indicate where we were in the project timeline and to highlight concerns on the Flood Relief project. The meeting was attended by Cllr Joe Byrne, Cllr Geraldine Donohue and Cllr. P.J. Murphy and several members of the SGFRC. (Apologies were sent from Cllr Kinane who could not attend). Cllr Finnerty turned up as the meeting was ending.

Councillors

Our first item was of course to congratulate our Councillors on their positive election outcome.

We went through the current status and timeline of the project and did highlight that we are moving into a more predictable phase of the project. We also highlighted that we felt there was a strong feeling of an overall project team that were working diligently and collaboratively towards solving the frequent flooding crisis.

That been said, there are real concerns and the key asks from SGFRC is that we need to keep on top of this project going forward:

  • Focus on delivery, delivery, delivery
  • Manage the risks properly
  • Communicate delays and mitigations

Cllr. Joe Byrne is well up to speed on the South Galway Flooding situation and new Councillors Geraldine Donohue and P.J Murphy both indicated this was one of the major topics for many people that they met when canvassing.  They are quickly coming up to speed on this project and the current situation and we look forward to their input and drive on this.

The SGFRC also would like our County Councillors to work as a team and be very proactive on this. At Galway County Council Monthly municipal meeting there is an standing agenda item on South Galway Flooding Project status. There is an opportunity in this monthly meeting to get clarity on current situation and also call for actions to ensure we keep to our project delivery.

This was received positively by our Councillors and we see how they put this into actin.

In the near future the SGFRC will also aim to refresh support and commitments given at Ministerial level to ensure that this project can progress through the feasibility stage.

So, while the sun is shining and we approach the longest day of the year – the flooding situation can sometimes be forgotten. However it is very important for us to be diligent now to ensure that we get this feasibility complete and project approval as soon as possible.   I would ask that even as we approach the height of our summer, please continue to give your support to this situation that will return to haunt our community during the next few winters.

David Murray

Chair, South Galway Flood Relief Committee

Derrybrien Windfarm – Government and ESB treating us like fools

.. guess who will be footing this bill when the EU Court comes back? Yep! That would be us the tax payers – This latest bumbling .. happened on the 1st April and our Government is making us all look like April fools…

eugh

There is a very recent update that happened last Monday (1st April 2019) in Luxembourg related to the Derrybrien Windfarm situation. Just in case you haven’t heard of what’s happened to date, here is a quick recap;

  • In 2003, without doing a proper Environmental Impact Analysis for a massive Windfarm on the Slieve Aughty Mountains – the mountain top was clear-felled of 200 Hectares of forestry, over 17km of roads were constructed and 71 turbine bases were constructed, leading to local disaster of a significant landslide.  In order to mitigate against further landslides developers imlemented a ‘robust’ drainage scheme and dug up to 30km of deep drains into the mountain top to keep it dry.
  • In 2008, the European Court of Justice highlighted that Ireland failed to ensure that work on projects that might require an environmental impact assessment (EIA) did not start before the necessary checks or studies are carried out.  The Irish authorities agreed to undertake an EIA to look in detail at further potential issues
  • In 2010, The European Commission issued a final warning over breaches of environmental law.
  • In 2017, the South Galway Flood Relief Committee visited the European Commission in Brussels to highlight our concern about the impact that this robust drainage scheme had on flooding in South Galway.  We highlighted lack of any progress or community involvement on the part of the Windfarm owners (ESB)
  • In Jan 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a statement which indicated that Ireland would face fines of almost €2m.  The court stated that even at this late stage, a full EIA must be conducted, which must include full consultation with residents, industry and other relevant stakeholders. The wind farm would then be obliged to take whatever “mitigation” measures and remedial work that such a report recommends. While Ireland had agreed to this back in 2008, the commission says Ireland has not honored part of the 2008 judgment requiring a full EIA.

That leads up to last Monday when the CJEU met in Luxembourg on the case.   The full contingent of Judges (15) were there to listen to Ireland’s progress since January last year.

eugh

You can only imagine the update from Ireland – Zilch.  There had been a series of questions sent in advance, but these were then not really followed because Ireland conceded on the day that the developer would now go through the substitute consent process although we didn’t seem to know how we were going to do this.  (Use section 177B or 177C of the Act)

Martin Collins from Derrybrien, was in attendance and he say that our representatives (Mr Connolly was the Counsel for Ireland) did us no favors in front of the judges.

“There was no indication of progress or even clarity of how we proposed to progress.  There was a strong sense of frustration from the judges that Ireland continues to ignore these harsh warnings.”, said Martin.

The court was also not at all pleased with the fact that Ireland had not acted to implement the earlier judgment and there was quite some disbelief that Ireland could/would not act more decisively against a 95% state owned company.

The irony of the fact that Ireland could not act against a 95% state-owner company is that the Minister for the Environment is also Minister for the ‘ESB’ 🙂  – That’s Minister Richard Bruton since 11 October 2018 (formally Denis Naughten)

In summary, Ireland has clearly ignored their commitment for 11 years and in recent years the warnings have ratcheted up. The threat is €2 million in fines and €12,000 a day until we fix this and last Monday we came to the party unprepared.

The Windfarm developers (ESB) caused the landslide, they were found out by our European Courts and Ireland was slapped with a court order to reassess the Environmental Impacts and put in proper mitigations. Instead of our Minister of Environment doing the right thing and being proactive on this and getting ESB to play ball – we’ve been playing a bullet-dodging game with the European Courts. This is all within Minister Bruton’s call but we’re bumbling it up.

The Advocate General’s opinion is due out on 13 June 2019 and the judgment will then follow at some time before the end of this year – and it’s not looking too positive.

In the meantime 200 Hectares of clear-felling and 30km of 8ft deep drains promote rapid run-off of water downhill into South Galway – we want to know what the impact is an what they are going to do to help the South Galway communities in our efforts to get a flood relief solution.   For Derrybrien , the Derrybrien Development Society wants the same answers to understand the impacts of European’s biggest windfarm in their back yard and how they will mitigate against disasters like we had in 2003.

And guess who will be footing this bill when the EU Court comes back? Yep! That would be us the tax payers – This latest bumbling happened on the 1st April and our Government is making us all look like April fools.

-David Murray

For More info please read previous articles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sequel – What do you expect … when you built on a flood plain (2)

In 8th January 2016,  I formed this blog because of my frustration with lack of understanding of our situation in South Galway from some comments on my South Galway Floods Facebook page. I wrote What do you expect … when you built on a flood plain?  in about 30 minutes in response to comments of the same name, published it and it had over 5000 reads within 24 hours.   It highlighted that there were homes 200 years old that were flooding for the first time and that the builders of this didn’t build on a flood plain. However through the mismanagement of the Slieve Aughty mountains, land reclamation and other factors have now added flood risk to areas which weren’t initially prone to flooding.

The sentiment at the time is that some local authorities where granting planning permission in areas that were liable to flooding.   There’s a recent development starting in Gort that has some people worried that they are building on a flood plain so lets take a very quick look at this.   The site in question is Ballyhugh and is a substantial development comprising of :

  1. 132  houses
    • 5  x single storey detached houses,
    • 8 x  detached 2 storey houses,
    • 30 x 2 storey semi detached houses,
    • 50  x storey semi-detached houses,
    • 39 x 3 storey terraced houses.
  2. 6 x 2 bed apartments/creche /2 no. shop units in a 3 storey block.
  3.  All associated site development works to include car parking, riverside walk/access, playground and amenity areas, roads, paths and boundaries/landscaping.
  4. All associated services

This is substantial development and it’s great to see this level of investment in development in Gort. My question – how have they considered flooding?

ballyhugh.JPG

If we superimpose CFRAM maps (flood-risk management maps) from the Gort Local Area Plan 2013-2019,  we get the following approximation.

ballyhugh1.JPG

This flooding extent seems to be a 23.5-24.2m contour and if we not look at these contours in relation to the proposal we get this:

ballyhugh2.JPG
Approximate overlay of CFRAM 1:100 flood extent contour on development land.

Now that looks real bad! However, it’s not as bad as that though.   That flood level is a 1 in a 100 year flood extent (happens on average once every 100 years) and it’s against the existing ground level.  The development plans include raising the new ground level as shown in the diagram below.

ballyhugh3

So, in theory, this is on paper looks fine. This is a 1:100 year flood extent and finished floor level there could be approx 15-20  houses is about 1m above this extent, which again, seems reasonable.     However, these flood extents are approximate and as we know the complexity of the hydrology of South Galway makes these numbers less accurate.

What concerns me is that while the developers did an initial flood risk assessment as a request for information – it didn’t seem trigger anything within OPW when it was first applied for.  This assessment was pretty thorough and was completed in March 2009 and gave some extent information as shown here.

cfram

It also gave the recommendation that Minimum floor levels should be 25m ~about 1m above predicted extent – this was in line with OPW recommendations at the time of 500mm-600mm.

In 2014, planning permission extensions were sought and approved but again, these didn’t trigger any flooding risk (floodmaps.ie, Galway Co Co Flood Data  and OSI ‘Liable to flooding’ areas )  despite the significant Winter 2009 flooding and the more recently developed CFRAM Maps (part of the Gort Local Area Plan 2013-2019)

ballyhugh4.JPG

In fact we can see here in Winter 2009 water gathering on the site opposite St Colman’s Park in the proposed development site.

ballyhugh5.JPG

Another factor is that as this development is raising land around a river bed, will it have an impact – yes – the 2009 analysis said that 1625m3 would be displaced but was not deemed significant (about 48 seconds worth of peak flow) .  Maybe in the overall catchment this is deemed negligible but when downstream is given responsibility for taking up this and increased flows through Gort and other areas – they all add up but who is actually adding all of these up? It’s flooding by a 1000 cuts.

This kind of development is good for Gort and South Galway and from a flood risk perspective,  it does seem to still have a 1m buffer zone which is portrayed as enough –  but is this realistic? We should get more realistic flood relief extents at the end of the South Galway/Gort Lowlands Flood Relief feasibility study (End of 2019) and it will be interesting to see if this impacts on on the flood risk of this proposed development.

Hopefully not.

David Murray

Note : The Information on more recent CFRAM flood extent contours are approximate