OPW flood plan best option for our city

Jer Buckley, PRO of the Irish National Flood Forum, says the scheme put forward by the Office of Public Works is the best option to make Cork safe from floods while retaining its unique character
OPW flood plan best option for our city
How the flood bench in Cork City will look.

I THINK it is important to put a balanced, logical and factual counter argument to the article written in the Evening Echo by Colette Sheridan on May 31 (‘Our lovely Lee should be in full view, not hidden behind wall’.)

Many people who have suffered flooding in this country are beginning to see flood schemes delivered by the OPW do and have worked. I would ask the question, what would have happened to the towns of Mallow, Fermoy and Clonmel with the severe flooding of December, 2015, if these schemes hadn’t been delivered?

I don’t subscribe to the viewpoint that the OPW wish to erect concrete walls all over our beautiful city and destroy Cork’s heritage. I believe we need to examine their track record and I would remind objectors that not only is the OPW the lead agency with responsibility for flood protection, but it is the agency with responsibility for the protection and maintenance of historical sites such as the Rock of Cashel, Dungarvan Castle and many others of national importance, ranging from Phoenix Park in Dublin to the Dolmen in the Burren.

I find it hard to believe an agency which has statutory responsibility for so much of our national heritage would wish to destroy Cork city’s heritage or ignore our links with the Lee.

We as a society need to help people who are victims of flooding. ‘Save Cork City’ campaigners have a lot of passion for their cause but have shown very little compassion for flooded communities. I have huge reservations with the inaccuracies in their argument and the facts as they present them.

First, the proposed flood protection scheme for Cork city will not hide the Lee behind walls. Merchants Quay, Lapps Quay, Albert Quay, Terrence McSweeney Quay and George’s Quay all have proposed railings atop of a flood protection wall which is 600mm or 2ft high. At NO stage will the public not be able to view the Lee.

I too have often sat outside the Electric Bar on South Mall and enjoyed a pint or two while gazing into our lovely Lee. This will not change. In fact, under the new proposal by the OPW, they have cleverly created a bench which will increase seating and improve the public realm in this part of our city. This bench is the so-called flood wall and it protects this part of our city from flooding. There is a break in it where a hydraulic flood barrier is buried underground so the public can walk straight out on to the boardwalk. The photo above illustrates this. Indeed, there are montages/pictures available and I would encourage all members of the public to view them. They show an accurate picture of what the city will be before and after and can be viewed athttp://www.lowerleefrs.ie. A picture paints a thousand words...

There is one part of Cork city where there will be a wall built and this is the North Mall. We will still be able to look over this wall as its height will be similar to that of the wall at Grenville Place. It will be 1200mm or 4ft and not the 7ft/10ft wall that is shown on the Facebook page of ‘Save Cork City’.

We have to be pragmatic and protect this area from river flooding. Have we forgotten the Mercy Hospital which was flooded in 2009?

The argument a tidal barrier is a possibility is a pure pipedream. Cork has the second largest harbour in the world. We have special areas of conservation, shipping and industrial development to consider, which I believe would not be compatible with a tidal barrier, never mind the cost.

The OPW argue that a tidal barrier could cost as much as half a billion, which is more than the total €440million national budget for flood schemes over the next five years. The budget allocated for Cork city is €140million. Where would the money come from? Even if it were financially viable, it would not prevent incidences of river flooding like those of 2009.

The proposal to ‘farm the flood’ upstream is also deeply flawed. We would have to compensate hundreds of farmers and even if it were possible to flood their lands, this concept was studied internationally and deemed unworkable in large catchments.

Perhaps the most significant study was undertaken in the UK, carried out between 2004-2012 by an international flood risk consortium made up of Imperial College London, Swansea University, University of Nottingham, Newcastle University, Queen Mary University, University of Victoria Wellington, Bangor University and University of Saskatchewan. Their key finding was “at the catchment scale any benefits to flood risk management from local scale mitigation measures are likely to be small”. Therefore, this argument doesn’t work.

The argument that the Cork city flood scheme will be similar to the Cork main drainage is not true.

Firstly, let us not forget we had a Victorian sewage system in our city which wasn’t fit for purpose. “The smell on Patrick’s Bridge is wicked, how does Father Mathew stick it?”

Now, despite the people who wax on lyrically about our beloved Lee, we can now swim in it! The annual swim has been reinstated and our link with the Lee reunited. We will not have to dig up our streets again, despite the pictures on the ‘Save Cork City’ campaigners’ Facebook page. If there was to be large scale disruption, do people really believe that Cork Chamber of Commerce and the Cork Business Association would give their support to the flood scheme?

The objective of the flood scheme for Cork city is positive. To stop our city flooding. The commitment to the €140million funding was not easy to get, considering this country is in huge debt with so many pressures on the national purse. Indeed, €20million of this is to be spent on the reinstatement of our historical quay walls which are in a state of collapse in some parts of our city. There are many other communities across the country rightly lobbying for their flood scheme. We now need to move ahead and embrace this huge and hard won investment in Cork.

We have a beautiful city! Nobody wishes or wants to destroy our heritage. We need to be practical and pragmatic. Cork city cannot reach its full potential with the constant threat of flooding.

I am convinced sanity will prevail. I would like to thank the vast majority of our city councillors for voting for a flood scheme which will protect our homes and businesses and hopefully lead to flood insurance being made available to all.

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