New flooding body will be able to propose laws

River Shannon group aims to tackle floods as cost of storm damage remains unclear

 Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Alan Kelly following a briefing with the National Coordination Group in Kildare Street, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Alan Kelly following a briefing with the National Coordination Group in Kildare Street, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The body tasked with overseeing the river Shannon will be given powers to recommend legislative changes to Government, The Irish Times has learned.

The draft terms of reference for the Shannon River Basin Management Co-ordination Group are to be agreed by Government this week.

It is understood the body, which will be chaired by the Office of Public Works (OPW), will meet on a quarterly basis and will be answerable to the relevant Oireachtas committee and the Cabinet’s subcommittee on climate change.

The group will publish its work programme for the river Shannon and will be tasked with overseeing the delivery of 66 flood plans.

No talking shop

The most significant power it will receive will be the ability to request legislative or regulatory changes if required.

A Government source said: “For those who called it a talking shop they are wrong.

“If this group believes that there is not adequate laws or adequate regulation it can recommend change.

“It will be a new co-ordination committee which will be accountable to an Oireachtas committee and to a Cabinet committee. It will have to publish the minutes of its meetings.”

The group was established by the Taoiseach in response to the flooding crisis.

A number of representative groups are to sit on the body, including local authorities, Bord na Móna, ESB and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The exact cost of the damage from the series of storms has yet to be compiled. Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe is to bring a report to Cabinet in the coming weeks on the extent of destruction of infrastructure.

The initial cost was nearing €60 million, but it is expected the bill will rise significantly.

Local authorities are due to make their costings available to Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly later this week.

The Government has already agreed to allocate €18 million to assist the clean- up, but the extent of the damage is still not known.

Insurance

Mr Kelly is also to travel to Brussels this week to meet the European Commissioner Karmenu Vella to discuss the response to the floods.

However, it is understood Ireland will not qualify for emergency EU funding due to rules requiring the total damage to amount to 0.6 per cent of gross national income.

As water levels continue to recede following the flooding earlier this month, a number of roads in Clare have reopened.

All roads in Springfield, Clonlara, are now passable and the N67 at New Quay has reopened.

An indication of the possible cost of the damage comes from the February 2014 storm, which insurers put at €111 million.

The storms of December 2013-January 2014 cost €46 million, while the October 2011 flooding cost €127 million.