The OPW is responsible for the maintenance of Arterial Drainage Schemes and catchment drainage schemes designated under the Arterial Drainage Acts of 1945 and 1995. The OPW carries out an annual programme, on an average five-yearly cycle, of statutory Arterial Drainage Maintenance to a total of 11,500 km of river channel and approximately 730 km of embankments nationally.
Drainage Districts are areas where drainage schemes to improve land for agricultural purposes were constructed under the Arterial Drainage Acts from 1842 up to 1943. Of the 293 schemes carried out, 170 remain covering 4,600 km (2,860 miles) of channel. The statutory duty of maintenance for 4,600 km of river channel benefitting from these schemes rests with the Local Authorities concerned.
These maintenance of watercourses are one element of a whole of Government approach to flood risk management across three strategic and policy areas:
- Prevention e.g. avoiding construction in flood-prone areas,
- Protection e.g. taking feasible measures, both structural and non-structural, to protect areas against flooding, and
- Preparedness e.g. informing the public about dealing with flood risk and a flood.
The Interdepartmental Flood Policy Coordination Group, that I chair, coordinates and recommends policies and measures that could support individuals and communities to respond effectively to flood risks. Implementing the National Flood Risk Policy, launched with the Flood Risk Management Plans on 3 May, 2018, provides an update of progress by the Group’s implementation of the national flood risk policy. This report is available on www.floodinfo.ie.
The Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme was the largest ever flood risk study carried out in the State and covered 300 areas believed to be at significant flood risk. The CFRAM programme culminated with the launch on 3 May, 2018 of 29 flood risk management plans which propose 118 new outline flood relief works on top of the 42 major projects already completed and the 33 major schemes within the existing capital works programme of the OPW. All of these projects are to be funded under the Government's 10 year flood risk investment programme of almost €1 billion under the National Development Plan 2018 - 2027. The key conclusion of the Plans is that 95% of properties assessed through CFRAM can be protected through continued investment in flood relief schemes.
Local flooding issues are a matter, in the first instance, for each local authority to investigate and address. It is open to all local authorities to submit a funding application to the OPW under its Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme. The Scheme’s eligibility criteria, including a requirement that measures are cost beneficial, is published on the OPW website, www.opw.ie. The OPW consider each application in accordance with the scheme’s eligibility criteria and having regard to the overall availability of resources for flood risk management. Some 500 minor works projects have been delivered under the Scheme providing local flooding solutions to approximately 6,500 properties.
The Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group, was established in 2016 and is chaired by the OPW. The Group took a decision in October 2016 to trial the lowering of the lake levels on Lough Allen, within the existing statutory framework, during the Winter 2016/2017 to help mitigate potential flood risk. A protocol was finalised between ESB, Waterways Ireland and the OPW to lower the late Autumn and Winter minimum lake levels in Lough Allen by approximately 0.7 metres with the first reduction implemented in October 2016. The trial was repeated for the Winter 2017/2018 and is being repeated for this coming Winter. Planning for a strategic maintenance programme of the River Shannon is also bring advanced by the Group.
The OPW will be publishing on http://flooding.ie/ guidance to landowners in relation to the maintenance of watercourses on or near their lands in the context of managing flood risk. This website is undergoing a review and it is expected that an updated website with some guidance will be available before the end of this year.