THE city’s main flood defence plan, the Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme, is set to come before the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath for approval confirmation towards the end of this year or in early 2023, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has confirmed.
The proposed scheme would run from Inniscarra Dam to the city centre, with the OPW stating that the scheme would protect more than 2,100 properties, including 900 homes and 1,200 businesses, against tidal and river flooding.
A spokesperson for the OPW has told The Echo the flood relief scheme is currently at planning and detailed design stage, and it is intended to submit the scheme for confirmation, under the Arterial Drainage Acts, to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform “towards the end of 2022 or in early 2023”.
“Confirmation of the scheme by the minister will inform the timescale for the procurement of a contractor for this scheme.
“Following the appointment of a contractor, the scheme will have an anticipated construction period of five to six years,” the spokesperson said.
Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, Patrick O’Donovan previously said “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”.
However, the proposed scheme has elicited criticism, most notably from the Save Cork City group which has repeatedly described the flood relief scheme as a “walls scheme” and has lobbied for a tidal barrier to protect Cork from flooding.
In a letter to city councillors in late 2020, Save Cork City said it believes the scheme would “seriously negatively affect the potential of our city for generations”.
Speaking to The Echo, Green Party councillor Dan Boyle said he believes there is logic to the idea of a tidal barrier.
“It would be subject to its own environmental concerns because any piece of technology you place in has consequences for the ecology, the environment, but a tidal barrier seems to make more sense than what is being proposed [by the OPW] both economically and in terms of feasibility and in terms of its likely environmental consequences it seems to be a far more effective way in dealing with the problem than the OPW’s approach,” he said.
Mr O’Donovan previously said the idea of a tidal barrier was explored but that it was 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”.
Fine Gael councillor Des Cahill said the Morrison’s Island Public Realm and Flood Defence Project would be a useful test for the overall project.
“A lot rides on the quality of work that will take place for the Morrison’s Island project if the Supreme Court rules that the scheme can be developed,” he said.
“If it’s not as good as we’re being told or if it’s not up to standard, there will be no faith in the overall project which already is controversial.
“I think the quality of the work is extremely important because, for me, that will ultimately be the test for the overall plan.
“It [the Morrison’s Island area] is also the one area that floods the most often. We all know that, we see it every year. I think at a minimum, that needs to be done, but I think it will also be used as a litmus test for the rest of the project because it has been separated. It is seen as a separate project.”