Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this matter for discussion. The delay in progressing and delivering flood defence works in Crossmolina is unacceptable. People living in the town are frustrated, angry and afraid, there having almost been another flooding incident on the last weekend of August. The history of the problem long predates the Minister of State's time in office. I am sure he will tell me it is an environmental issue and that further investigation is needed. Does he not agree that the length of the delay and the manner in which the matter has been dealt with by the OPW and consultants is not acceptable? The Minister of State has visited Crossmolina and shown empathy with the people there. That gave them hope that he will cut through the red tape surrounding this project, which somebody needs to do.
When it comes to the OPW, it is a case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. It has taken no action other than the implementation of a minor pilot project which saw the installation of flood gates on some buildings. The flood defence works for Crossmolina come under the Government's capital investment programme for 2016 to 2021. Given that the money is there for the project, why has it not progressed? The town was flooded in 1989, 2006 and in November and December 2015. There was a serious danger of flooding on many other occasions. The flood gates have helped but their impact is limited. Now the people of Crossmolina are facing another winter afraid that the flooding will recur.
People are so upset about the delay in the works because they are in a situation where they cannot get insurance and cannot sell their properties. I know of a man who cannot sell his flood damaged home or get money to refurbish it and has now received a letter from the local authority notifying him that the property constitutes a derelict site. The proposal is to build a channel upstream between Nephin Mountain and the town, but that is not what was originally proposed. In 2012, the OPW had Ryan Hanley undertake an environmental impact assessment, EIA, which resulted in a scoping document being published in July 2014. The proposal was that walls would have to be constructed on either side of the river and the bridge would have to be raised somewhat. There followed the catastrophic flooding in the town in November and December 2015. We were then told that the walls could not be built because they would interfere with the integrity of the bridge. After going back to the drawing board, the bi-channel solution was brought forward.
At a meeting of the Joint Committee on Climate Action last October attended by the Commissioners of Public Works, including Mr. Maurice Buckley and Mr. John Sydenham, I asked for a commitment that we would not face into this coming winter without the works being done. They assured me that an environmental impact report had been completed in May 2018 and they expected construction to begin in the summer of this year. That has not happened. Why are the flood defence works in Crossmolina being repeatedly delayed because of environmental issues?