THE Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) Patrick O’Donovan has reiterated his claim that delivering the Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme is a priority for the OPW and the Government.
Speaking in the Seanad this week, Minister O’Donovan addressed some of the criticisms that have been levelled at the scheme by those who oppose it.
Campaign group Save Cork City have repeatedly described the Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme as a "walls scheme", and have lobbied for a tidal barrier to protect Cork from flooding.
“One of many options considered in the project was a tidal barrier, and a detailed report was prepared as one of the many reports prepared for the scheme.
“A conclusion is that while a correctly sited and designed barrier may, and I repeat may, resolve the problem, it would not solve the more destructive fluvial, that’s the river flooding, problem in Cork,” Minister O’Donovan said.
“Four locations were considered in the report and were ruled out for various reasons, including environmental impacts, technical difficulties, impact on the navigation of the harbour… limited upstream storage capacity for flows coming down the river or inadequacy in terms of climate change adaptability,” he continued.
He added that “the majority of the quayside defences will be just two feet or less with appropriate railings on top” and said that the scheme will also provide “approximately 1km of new riverside walkways”.
Last month, Minister O’Donovan visited Cork city to meet with the Lord Mayor, the CEO of Cork City Council and members of the business community to discuss progress on the scheme.
“During my visit, I was struck by the growing frustration… over the delays to the commencement of the Morrison’s Island project following a legal challenge following Bord Pleanála’s approval for the project,” he said.
The brakes have been put on the first phase of the flood defences at Morrison’s Island, being carried out separately by Cork City Council but partly funded by the OPW who are working closely with the council on it, as campaign group Save Cork City has applied to the High Court for a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to approve the works.
Save Cork City has also lodged a complaint with the European Commission against the Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan and the Office of Public Works (OPW) Drainage Department over flood defences in Cork.
The Minister said that whilst he “respects everyone’s right to object”, further delays to the Morrison’s Island project “would not only increase the risk to more homeowners, business people living and working in the city of Cork, but also increase the risk of potentially losing their lives in a major flood event”.
He said that the scheme has undergone “comprehensive consultation” and is better because of it.
“The OPW are not one bit precious and if things can be made better by engagement, we’re all for that,” he said.
“The OPW wants to save Cork city too – no one has a monopoly on concern of saving cork city.
“If you get a high tide, with southwesterlies, and severe rain with sodden ground, Cork city is inside in a bowl, we will be back into a 2009 scenario,” he added.
The Minister called for an “honest discussion” in the Dáil and the Seanad surrounding “the processes that are currently in place around the delivery of major capital flood relief schemes”.
“The process that we have for delivering major flood relief schemes is moving slower than the rate at which our climate is changing,” he said.
Minister O’Donovan’s comments came after Senator Jerry Buttimer (FG) requested an update on the progress of the LLFRS.
“I am delighted that the Minister is committed to the scheme,” Senator Buttimer said.
“As the Minister rightly said, they weren’t immune from engagement, they weren’t immune from changing the plan and it’s critical now that we put a timeline in place – that we proceed with the scheme,” he continued.