Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (209, 210)

John McGuinness

Question:

325 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the progress in resolving the safety issues arising from the completion of the River Nore flood relief scheme; if a resolution has been found to the issues raised by the canoe club and the work to be undertaken; his views on the lead article of a newspaper (details supplied) of 16 January, 2004; the action he intends to take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1657/04]

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Phil Hogan

Question:

327 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he will carry out a safety audit in respect of the flood relief scheme in Kilkenny in view of recent accidents that could have resulted in a fatality; if he will give the necessary insurance to Kilkenny Water Safety Committee that additional measures will be put in place to ensure a proper level of water safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1719/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 325 and 327 together.

Discussions to determine the safety features to be included in the flood relief scheme have been taking place with the local authorities and representatives of the various local water safety and water based sporting groups. Arising out of these discussions a comprehensive report itemising the safety measures was produced by the OPW's engineering consultants in July 2003 and a copy was forwarded in the same month to the water safety — water-based group's representative. It is expected that the final observations of the water safety and water based interest groups on the safety report will be confirmed and clarified in the immediate future. A meeting of all relevant parties has been arranged for Tuesday, 27 January 2004 in Kilkenny. Instructions can then be given to the contractor to put in place a work programme to implement the necessary measures as quickly as possible. I wish to assure the Deputies that this work programme will include the appropriate safety provisions to counteract all the potential dangers to safety that have been identified.

One item which has presented some difficulty is the proposed location of a slipway at the Peace Park to meet the needs of the boating clubs and also the emergency services. Various complicating factors including the possible costly disruption of numerous public utilities, local authority proposals for a footbridge across the Nore at this point and various existing outfalls which empty into the river at this area have all combined to present difficulties. Various alternative sites for a slipway were identified by the OPW's consulting engineers but were not acceptable to the local groups. The OPW has, however, instructed the consultants to re-examine the proposal for the provision of a slipway at the Peace Park and the consultants' report is expected very shortly.

The unfortunate incident reported in the newspaper article was not brought to the OPW's attention prior to publication. The flood relief construction site in Kilkenny is a secure one but, nevertheless, it is virtually impossible to prevent someone gaining access to the river, if they are determined to do so, either from the bridges or by scaling the existing barriers. While the river levels have been artificially lowered during the construction works, the levels and current can still rise quickly in adverse conditions and will always constitute a potentially dangerous environment. The scheme is still under construction and the installation of safety features such as ladders, grab chains, rings etc. will be commenced in the near future as part of the programme of ongoing phased works.

When completed by the end of 2004, the Kilkenny flood relief scheme will have a significant positive impact on the city through reducing or eliminating adverse flooding impacts and this will result in very real benefits for Kilkenny. At the same time, the finished scheme will include all the appropriate provisions for safety deemed necessary. In accordance with the Safety Health and Welfare (Construction) Regulations, a health and safety file will also be completed for the works and copies passed to the OPW and Kilkenny County Council. The health and safety file will identify operational and maintenance requirements and limitations or restrictions that are imposed.