The Commissioners of Public Works are already addressing the issue of flooding at various locations throughout the country. Following a Government Decision in September 2004, the Commissioners have responsibility as lead agency for implementing Government policy in relation to flooding, now including coastal flooding, which was previously the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
The Commissioners have already completed a number of schemes to defend areas at risk from flooding. Major projects completed include, the River Nore [Kilkenny], the River Suir [Carrick-on-Suir] the River Tolka in Counties Meath, Fingal and Dublin City. Other areas where schemes are completed are Dunmanway, Sixmilebridge, Duleek, the River Mulkear at Newport and Cappamore, Lacken [Ardrahan], Kinvara and Maam Valley Co. Galway, Bridgend, Co Donegal, Shinkeen Stream [Hazelhatch], Morrel River and Lyreen Meadowbrook Rivers, Co Kildare, Drumcollogher, Co. Limerick, Clancy's Strand and Harry's Mall in Limerick City, Avoca, Aughrim and Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, Athlone Co Westmeath, Freemount Co. Cork, Scotch Quay, Waterford City, and Mullinahone, Co Tipperary.
Flood Relief Schemes are currently underway in Ennis, Clonmel, Leixlip Lower Dodder and Mallow. I expect schemes to commence within the next few months in Carlow, Fermoy Tullamore, Mornington and Waterford. A scheme to protect Templemore has just been put on statutory public display, and, subject to successful completion of the confirmation process, I expect work to commence on that scheme later this year. The statutory public exhibition of a scheme for Enniscorthy will commence on 17 February.
A scheme has been designed in co-operation with Bray Town Council, to protect Bray and I expect tenders for that scheme will be invited this year. OPW is working with Arklow Town Council to prepare a scheme to protect the town. A scheme has also been designed for Portarlington and OPW is in consultation with Laois and Offaly County Councils with a view to advancing that scheme.
OPW is also working with a number of Local Authorities with a view to identifying solutions to local flooding problems in their areas. OPW will support the implementation of protective measures that are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.
In addition to the provision of structural defences for towns, that have existing flood risk, OPW is also working with other Departments and Agencies, where appropriate, to address flood risk and prevent the creation of future risk.
A Flood Hazard maps website, which records available historic data on areas which have flooded or are known to be at risk, has been established. A programme of Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Studies has commenced, which will produce predictive flood hazard and risk maps and risk management plans for areas which are considered on the basis of available or readily derivable information to have a significant flood risk. Studies are currently in progress for the rivers Lee, Suir and Dodder catchments and the Fingal/East Meath Hydrometric Area. Studies of all river catchments will be completed over the next five to six years. Information generated as the studies proceed, including hazard maps and risk maps will be made available to the public as it comes to hand. The Commissioners of Public Works will as far as possible prioritise the studies in the areas where development plans are due for review, in order to ensure the best possible flow of relevant information to planners. These studies will meet the requirements of the EU Floods Directive. OPW represented Ireland at the negotiation of the Directive.
OPW in co-operation with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government have prepared Guidelines on the Management of Flood Risk in the Planning and Development System. The guidelines were published for consultation last September. It is intended that, when the consultation process is complete the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will issue directions on their application to Local Authorities.
OPW has also taken steps to raise public awareness of flood risk as an important issue, through media campaigns and the establishment of a website which gives advice on mitigating some of the impact of flooding through preparation and planning, and also contains information on flood protection products. OPW is also considering the possibility of improving the quality of warnings of coastal and river flooding, in conjunction with other agencies.