New €1 billion flood risk management plan will fund 118 flood relief schemes

Taoiseach announces plan to tackle devastating effects of flooding and new flood forecasting system

Launching a 10-year programme of  flood relief measures,  the Minister of State for the Office of Public Works & Flood Relief, Kevin Boxer Moran  and  Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. Photograph:  Johnny Bambury / Fennell Photography

Launching a 10-year programme of flood relief measures, the Minister of State for the Office of Public Works & Flood Relief, Kevin Boxer Moran and Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Johnny Bambury / Fennell Photography

 

A 10-year €1 billion flood risk management plan, unveiled by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday, will involve 118 individual flood relief schemes throughout the country.

The plan was developed following a review of 300 flood-prone sites, part of the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Programme (CFRAM) study, which began in 2012.

Speaking at the launch in Athlone, Mr Varadkar acknowledged the “devastating impact” that flooding has had in Ireland. “I have seen first hand the impacts of the floods across the country,” said Mr Varadkar. “Not so long ago these were rare events which we talked about for decades afterwards but they are becoming more frequent. It is now commonplace to hear about a once-in-a-century event. It seems to happen almost every couple of months,” he stated.

Mr Varadkar said that as well as putting schemes in place, a flood forecasting system is also being developed.

“We are establishing a national flood forecasting service so people know what is happening and what is likely happen and this will help to guide our national response to flood events,” he said.

Minister for State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Flood Relief, Kevin “Boxer” Moran announced that the first €257 million tranche of works, involving 50 schemes, would go to design stage immediately. They includes five major schemes, each costing more than €15 million, 14 schemes each between €1 and €15 million and 31 schemes across 19 local authority areas each costing less than €1 million. The five large schemes are located in Dundalk, Carlingford, Drogheda, Limerick and Tralee.

Mr Moran said three million people live within CFRAM’s areas. Within the catchment of the 300 sites covered in the programme’s studies, 34,500 properties were deemed at risk. The latest announcement of 118 schemes is in addition to 42 completed schemes, 33 that are underway and a further 500 minor works already delivered by local authorities.

“Today’s announcement is not a spin that was somewhat talked about in the 2040 plan when we announced it in Sligo and people said there was nothing new. One billion to the people of this country is not a spin, it’s real money, it’s the Government putting their money where their mouth is,” Mr Moran said.

Acknowledging that not all areas that may have had flooding problems have been selected for schemes, he said he was prepared to meet and work with local authorities on flood prevention measures and he specifically mentioned areas such as Portumna and Carrick on Shannon.

In relation to concerns that hundreds of property-owners may find themselves in areas that are now effectively designated as at risk of flooding for the first time in places such as Dundalk, Mr Moran said he was due to meet with insurance companies on Friday as a result of the announcement.

“We are working closely with the insurance companies and we have a memorandum of understanding. Where we do have flood walls we have now up to 80 per cent of insurance covering those people,” he remarked. Mr Moran said insurance companies have their own mapping systems and that’s what they are using at present.

Brokers Ireland described the move to design stage of 50 priority flood defence schemes as a positive development but claimed it only covers a fraction of the problem as between 40,000 and 50,000 homes and businesses can’t get flood insurance cover.

Brian McNelis, director of General Insurance Services at Brokers Ireland, which represents 1,300 member firms, said it looks like 19 schemes covering about 7,300 properties will be prioritised by the OPW with a further 31 small schemes to be progressed by local authorities.

“That is a welcome step,” he said. “It would also be important that the insurance industry would work very closely with the Government to make sure that where flood defence works have been undertaken, insurance cover would be restored without delay, and I welcome Minister Boxer Moran’s commitment to hold detailed discussions with insurance companies.”

However, he said Brokers Ireland would have a concern in particular around the 31 smaller flood defence schemes that are to be undertaken by local authorities “These authorities need to act with speed. Unfortunately, there have been issues between local authorities and other public bodies, such as inland fisheries, in the past. And there have been issues around the lack of maintenance of culverts and waterways to a sufficiently high standard,” he remarked.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Denis Naughten said flooding is costing the economy about €192 million a year. “If we don’t work and change to dealing with the flood challenges that we have, we are looking at an annual bill of €1,000 million a year,” he remarked.

“Over time more investment will need to be put in. Not just in relation to flood relief schemes but also in terms of mitigating the challenges that we have in terms of climate. That’s why the Government, through the national development plan, have put in place a significant investment of over €20 billion over the next decade in terms of investment in dealing with the impact of climate change but also ensuring that we can reduce the impact in future,” said Mr Naughten.