ESB examines ways to prevent Cork floods


THE ESB is examining interim measures on the operation of its dams at Carrigadrohid and Inniscarra in the Lee valley in Co Cork with a view to preventing a repeat of last year’s floods which caused €100 million worth of damage to Cork city.

According to the ESB, it has been asked by the OPW to come up with interim measures that could be put in place this winter to increase flood protection downstream of the dams, and it expected to finalise these measures shortly.

Asked by The Irish Times what the interim measures involve, the ESB said it was still in discussion with the OPW, which it said was continuing to progress recommendations made in the Lee Catchment Flood Risks Assessment and Management Study.

This week the ESB said it would only be in a position to change operating procedures at Inniscarra to allow increased discharges from the dam following completion of localised structural work downstream of the dam, as recommended by the Lee management study.

The ESB said the Lee study recommended “further optimised operation” of the dams, but said such measures were only likely to significantly reduce the risk of flooding if undertaken with localised work downstream.

Among the works identified by the Lee report team are filling in gaps in quay walls and at bridge openings on both channels of the river Lee through the use of temporary shutters or barricades in at-risk zones.

The ESB rejected any suggestion of negligence in the way it operated the dams after criticism by Cork property developer Owen O’Callaghan, who accused the company of “ineptitude” over not controlling the outflow of water.

Mr O’Callaghan said the ESB’s reiteration that it would behave in exactly the same way as it did in the November 2009 floods when it said it had no choice but to release huge volumes of water was deeply worrying for the people of Cork.

He said the ESB should immediately put the measures recommended in the Lee study in place and work with the OPW. The fact that it had not done so already “makes its own statement about their level of interest in Cork”.

He called on ESB chief executive Patrick McManus to come to Cork and explain to “all of Cork’s stakeholders why his organisation hasn’t changed a single jot of its operating procedures in the 12 months”.

In September Mr O’Callaghan was refused planning permission for an €80 million private hospital near Western Road after An Bord Pleanála ruled it would be premature to grant planning without the Lee study recommendations being implemented.

Meanwhile, Cork City Council yesterday issued a flood warning for low-lying areas of the city over the weekend as low pressure and a tidal surge poses a threat on Sunday and Monday. It urged householders and businesses in Sawmill Street, Cotter Street, Stable Lane, Union Quay, Morrison’s Quay, Cornmarket Street, French Quay, Wandesford Quay, Oliver Plunkett Street, Lavitt’s Quay, Kyrls Street and Kyrls Quay to take protective measures.