Campaigners to present Cork Harbour barrier plan to Dáil committee

Office of Public Works says preliminary costing suggests structure not viable


A group campaigning for the construction of a tidal barrier across Cork Harbour to prevent flooding in the city are to make a presentation on Wednesday before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as they seek to persuade the Government of the merits of the plan.

The Save Cork City group presentation comes a week after the Office of Public Works (OPW) announced it is to carry out a detailed costing of the group’s proposal, but warned its preliminary costing of the structure suggests it would not be financially viable.

Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief Kevin “Boxer” Moran said last week a report by UK consultants, HR Wallingford, commissioned by the Save Cork City group, failed to provide a detailed breakdown of costs on a tidal barrier in Cork Harbour.

The report by the consultants, who have worked on tidal barriers on the Thames and in Cardiff and in St Petersburg, said Cork was a suitable location for a tidal barrier and a 950m barrier could be completed at the eastern end of Lough Mahon for €140 million.

The report found such a barrier, incorporating a 60m-wide navigation channel for shipping, could be completed within two years and would have “the major benefit of not requiring the construction of walls along the quays in the city,” say the Save Cork City group.

Major boost

The Save Cork City group proposal received a major boost in June when Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin suggested the tidal barrier option should be re-examined by the OPW after it initially ruled it out on cost grounds, saying it would cost at least €450 million.

“I think we must look long and hard at the (barrier) idea. The whole programme of building walls for flood defences has limitations. It is going to take 10 years to complete all of that. Ultimately, the issue of the barrier should be professionally and seriously examined,” said Mr Martin.

Mr Moran said the HR Wallingford report, which looks at the particular tidal barrier proposed by the Save Cork City group, lacks detail on cost breakdowns for the project and fails to adequately address issues such as the navigational requirements within Cork Harbour.

He said the report also fails to address the issue of environmental constraints which would arise due to the proximity of Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas in the harbour and which would be very difficult to overcome.

“In addition, the report does not include for any measures to deal with the fluvial flooding problem which exists through the city up to Inniscarra dam, all of which would still be required even if a tidal barrage was constructed,” he said in a statement.

Mr Moran said while the OPW’s preliminary findings on the consultants’ report found a tidal barrier was not viable, the OPW - together with its technical advisors - would undertake a detailed costing of the Save Cork City proposal and would include it in its analysis currently being finalised.