FLOOD defence plans for the city will be handed to the Minister of Finance early next year, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has confirmed.
This week marks ten years since a devastating river flood caused an estimated €90 million worth of damage in Cork city.
It is also now nine years on from the publication of draft flood plans devised via the OPW’s Lee Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) report.
OPW chartered engineer Ezra Mac Manamon told The Echo that the Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme (LLFRS) plan is close to being finalised after engineers had redesigned elements and will be on Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe’s desk in the first quarter of next year so he can approve them and release funding.
Mr Mac Manamon added that planning issues for the first phase of the flood defences at Morrison’s Island - being carried out separately by Cork City Council - will not hold up the overall scheme.
The Morrison’s Island scheme between Parliament Bridge and Parnell Bridge along Morrison's Quay and Fr Mathew Quay - and a short section along Union Quay close to Trinity footbridge - is currently awaiting a decision by An Bord Pleanála.
The LLFRS will span 15 kilometres of the River Lee from west of Ballincollig to the eastern tip of the Cork city island and will protect over 900 homes and 1,200 businesses. It will be completed on a phased basis.
Mr Mac Manamon said: “We would be looking to get the plans to the Minister in the first quarter of next year so he can start considering them for approval. The situation is that our plans are not impacted by the city council’s project at Morrison’s Island - even though we are working very closely with the local authority and we are part-funding the project.
“We would be hoping that that project gets the green light from An Bord Pleanála very soon and that would be a quick win for the city and would protect a large area including South Mall, Oliver Plunkett Street, Union Quay, Fr Mathew Quay and both projects protect the vast majority of the city centre.
“We would be looking to deliver our scheme as quickly as possible and we will continue to work with the city council in order to deliver both projects,” Mac Manamon added.
Current estimates on expenditure for the LLFRS are based on 2016 construction cost figures but built into the €140 million estimated cost is a half-century worth of maintenance, contingencies and compensation costs.
The OPW published new images of the highly-debated scheme in September in order to address “genuine misunderstanding” of the project which has been heavily criticised by campaign group Save Cork City who have lobbied for a tidal barrier at Lough Mahon.