A Cork TD has questioned the cost of the Office of Public Work’s (OPW) plans for flood defence measures in Cork city at an Oireachtas Finance Committee.
Solidarity TD Mick Barry raised concerns in relation to the measures planned for both the River Lee and River Bride in recent days.
Speaking during the committee meeting, Mr Barry questioned the OPW on claims made by UCC’s professor of civil engineering Philip O’Kane that a tidal barrier for Cork city could be built at a cost less than half the cost of the quay walls plan.
Prof O’Kane said at the Irish National Hydrology Conference last year that an effective tidal barrier could be built for the River Lee at a cost of €70m.
Responding to Mr Barry, the minister of state at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Patrick O’Donovan said the current cost of the scheme from Ballincollig to the mouth of the Lee is €114m.
He said: “Cork city is capable of being flooded as much from rain as it is from the tide and Cork city came very close recently to being flooded from a rain event and in 2009 Cork city flooded from a rain event and you know my views in relation to how Cork city flooded in the past and I’m sure you know the views of many of the traders in Cork city.
“Cork city is the most vulnerable populated part of the country in relation to the possibility of it being flooded again and it is the area that gives me the greatest level of concern. There are over a quarter of a million people living in Cork.
“I want to see Cork city thrive but a tidal barrier at the moment will not solve the problem that happened in 2009.”
Mr Barry asked Mr O’Donovan about claims by the Save Cork City group that fluvial flooding of the Lee in the city centre can be prevented if the ESB uses its dam systems with that aim in mind.
He said the views of the group are that the dam system already in place, given sufficient earning of weather events, “is more than sufficient to dam water for a limited period or to release water in advance in such a way that it can protect the city from upriver rain-driven flooding without the need for the OPW walls scheme”.
Mr O’Donovan said business people in Cork who have had to “wade through sewerage, faeces, urine, sludge” want to “get on with the delivery of a scheme that will work in the city centre” as opposed to “some sort of hypothesis that might work out in the sea”.
Separately, Mr O’Donovan confirmed that the estimated cost of the culverting plan for the River Bride, which was initially costed at €12m, now stands at €20.5m.
Mr O’Donovan confirmed that the capital cost will be approximately €18m and the total number of properties that will be protected will be 293, of which 206 are residential and 87 will be commercial.