Management of Severe Weather Events: Format of Draft Report (Resumed)

Mr. Brendan Shiels, a consultant who drafted the report, will take a seat beside me. He will be taking note of what is said. I have gone through the report, believe it or not, page by page. We must go through it page by page. In fairness, I believe some of the early parts of it are routine enough. We agreed the format and the structure sometime ago and the consultant operated on that basis. The earlier pages generally include summaries of what was said and presented to the committee and we have no particular issues in that regard. The findings and recommendations are included at the end.

I do not know whether any amendments have been received since the last meeting. I suggested three or four more textual changes which have been circulated.

I have one also.

We shall be happy to take it. We have to clear the report page by page to be able to say the committee approved it. Can we agree to the contents page? Agreed. On the preface by the Chairman's, that is my prerogative and agreed. The membership of the committee in included on page 4. The acknowledgements page comprises a list of all the people to whom we spoken and which includes all the groups we met during our travels, etc. The introduction to the report essentially outlines what happened: there was severe flooding in November and a cold spell in December-January which gave rise to issues affecting the roads.

On pages 7-10, inclusive, we deal with the Met. Éireann presentation. It is a good summary of what Met. Éireann stated which we shall note. If anyone wants to stop me on any page, he or she should please do so, but most of the discussion will focus on the last couple of pages and the recommendations. Can we approve the summary of the Met. Éireann submission? Agreed.

The next item which starts on page 11 and continues to page 15 concerns the emergency response co-ordination committee from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. It is a summary of what it outlined to the committee. The emergency plan is also covered. Is it agreed that we approve the summary? Agreed.

We specifically had the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government——

The last paragraph on page 15 reads:

Mr. Hogan informed the Members that at the request of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, a review of the emergency response to the flooding events had been initiated, but that no such review of the severe cold weather had been requested by any Minister up to the time of his appearance before the Joint Committee.

The Minister was categorical as to the extent of the review which was to be an overview. If one looks at the records, one will see that there was not going to be a micro-examination. My second point concerns the line "no such review of the severe cold weather had been requested by any Minister up to the time of his appearance before the Joint Committee". If that is still outstanding, it is an issue at which we need to look in the recommendations.

We shall add it in when we come to our findings and recommendations.

Pages 16-18, inclusive, comprise the submission received from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government which we can note. The Minister was present.

On page 17, in speaking to the committee the Minister reminded members that a review of the emergency procedures——

To which paragraph is the Deputy referring?

The final sentence of the first paragraph on page 17 which reads:

He reminded the Members that a review of the emergency response and inter-agency arrangements was being carried out by officials of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, although no indication of when the review would be completed was given.

At Question Time last Thursday there was still no indication as to when the review would be completed. Therefore, this is a matter which must be looked at now in the context of this report.

We shall include it in our recommendations.

To add to what Deputy Lynch said on that issue, it is important that we place a time limit on it because these events happened last January, February and November and there has been no independent review.

We will insert a time limit, say, the end of September.

We need to separate the recommendations in the report from what the Minister has undertaken to do.

We should recommend the inclusion of a time limit. I am in agreement with the Chairman

Are we agreed on what is included on pages 16-18, inclusive? Agreed.

Pages 19-22, inclusive, comprise a summary of the detailed presentation we received from the Office of Public Works. It is concerned essentially with policy issues since the OPW does not deal with detailed drainage programmes.

Paragraph 2 on page 21 reads:

As the agency centrally responsible for flood risk management, the OPW carries the equally important responsibility that flood risk information is disseminated appropriately. The Joint Committee welcomes the OPW's acknowledgement that its prior awareness raising and communication of flood risk to those at risk was unsatisfactory.

I draw the attention of members to correspondence to the committee received from the ESB, dated 2 July 2010, in which there are five bullet points. The ESB states flood risk requires assessment and action under the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government' major emergency management, MEM, framework:

We respectfully requested the ESB should be included as part of this framework, with immediate effect. The ESB is of the view that relevant local authority emergency plans and regional multi-agency emergency plans should include a specific plan for flood emergencies, using the procedures and guidelines that form part of the MEM framework. This would enable the improved management of flood emergencies.

That point which has been forwarded to us by the ESB should find its way into a recommendation because it pops up in the report that the ESB was effectively out of the loop. We can let other agencies determine who was to blame for this, but a black hole was identified in the communications infrastructure for emergency planning to the effect that the ESB, the OPW and the local authorities were not in the same communications loop. The letter from the ESB confirms this.

I am in full agreement with the Deputy and have circulated three short amendments to the text, two of which specifically relate to that matter. I have read what the ESB has stated.

Can we agree to the summary included on pages 19-22, inclusive? Agreed.

The last paragraph on page 22 is very significant on the issue of a disconnect and linkage. It is very important that we do not ignore that issue.

That concerns urban sanitation systems, the subject one of our recommendations.

The next item concerns local authorities which are dealt with on pages 23-28, inclusive. It deals primarily with what happened during the cold spell in January, including the gritting of roads and keeping them open. We received submissions from several local authorities. We also met officials of Cork city and county councils about the flooding. I am sorry, we are still dealing with flooding along the River Shannon, in counties Offaly, Galway, Roscommon, Westmeath, Clare, Leitrim and Longford. We have made recommendations in that regard also. Can we note what is included on these pages?

On page 23 there is a reference to an issue discussed during our meetings with different groups, namely, the distribution of sandbags which was looked at extensively in 1987 following major flooding in the United Kingdom. One of the things they did was to use plastic bags and sheeting in areas that needed to be buttressed before putting sandbags in place to create a sealant, a very simple measure. Practices adopted in the United Kingdom in flood management — simple measures that actually protect homes — need to be looked at here. It is not just about emergency planning, it is also about the methodologies to be employed.

We can include that aspect in our recommendations.

It is a very simple measure.

Are we agreed on what has been included on pages 23-28, inclusive? Agreed.

On pages 29 and 30 we deal specifically with the communications issue. It is about the flooding, but it also goes on to deal with the communications for local authorities in respect of roads, gritting and programmes like that.

On the last line of page 29, it states that prior to the flooding events, the risk of serious flooding was not adequately communicated to people living and working in specific areas near major river catchments. Maybe the report could cite one or two examples there. We have examples of it, so the report should cite one or two of them to add some weight to that statement.

That is fine. Page 30 deals with the communications issue, which was quite important during the whole event.

Page 30 refers to communications between response agencies not being affected. I think we should explain what we mean by that and cite examples of where we see a deficiency in the communication breakdown.

That is certainly dealt with in our findings. The next item now relates to two particular case studies, namely, the River Shannon and Cork city floods. We will go through the Shannon issue first. On page 31, we talk about the overall levels on the lakes. The National Parks and Wildlife Service was in before us. The biggest problem here is that there are so many State agencies with different statutory authorities, and nobody can move on anything unless they clear it with every authority. Officials from the National Parks and Wildlife Service outlined their role under the habitats directive. Officials from the ESB outlined their issues in respect of the dam at Ardnacrusha and flooding at the Parteen weir. Officials from the Central Fisheries Board outlined their concern with fish stocks. Representatives from Waterways Ireland — an all-Ireland body — outlined their concerns about the investment they had made in navigation on the Shannon for people who are involved in leisure activities. People from Bord na Móna were here and they outlined their concerns. There was a suggestion that a lot of silt from Bord na Móna has found its way into the River Shannon, causing a problem. They said that they have a lot of cutaway bogs that could be flooded during times of severe flooding. Arrangements could be made for drainage to be put in place that would act as an attenuation area to slow the water hitting the River Shannon. Representatives from the Heritage Council were here as well, as that body has worked successfully with various groups in the past on integrating policies on inland waterways. We also had a delegation from the IFA. I will put a paragraph into the report to summarise its submissions to the committee. Can we agree on the Shannon section of the report? Agreed.

The Cork city floods issue begins on page 34 and runs up to page 37. The Deputy and Senator from Cork have read the findings. Is the summary a reasonable assessment of what was said to us as a committee? We met officials from Cork City Council, Cork County Council, local residents——

In the opening paragraph, it states that the quay walls collapsed at Grenville Place. That turns up again on page 35. The impression one might get from reading the report is that the release of water down the river caused the quay walls to collapse. However, what happened at Grenville Place was that water came through the city and pressure at the outside of the wall drove the wall into the river. That puts the city flood into an entirely different context and that needs to be noted in the report.

Should we say that the quay walls collapsed as a result of something? I would like the Deputy to give me a wording.

The quay walls collapsed as a result of flooding in the city area. It was not caused by the river, but by flooding in the city.

We will put that down on page 34. The quay walls collapsed at Grenville Place, as a result of flooding in the city area.

Causing them to fall into the river.

Causing the walls to fall into the river. Page 34 contains a summary of the different issues and provides a timescale of what happened in respect of the dam. I think we point out the discrepancies later on.

It states in the last line of the second last paragraph on page 36 that the regulations are based on the principle of not causing a flood, and that peak discharges are not allowed to exceed peak inflows during a rising flood. In fact, the key principle of the ESB regulations is that at no time is the dam to be put at risk, and all other matters, such as environmental damage, damage to property and other injuries are secondary to the protection of the dam. That needs to be stated in the report because that——

That is a fact.

Right from the outset, the ESB officials were telling us that the dam was never at risk. The report subsequently showed that the ESB was never going to put the dam at risk, so that needs to be noted in the report.

They have always said the dam was never at risk. It was never at risk because they made sure it was never at risk.

That is because the regulation stated it would never be put at risk, and that needs to be cited in the reported.

Some people thought the dam was at risk, but it was never at risk because the ESB never allowed the situation to arise whereby it would be at risk. We can put that sentence in there to reflect the Deputy's point. The wording is in the ESB report and that is what its officials stated themselves. They always took measures to prevent that happening. If there was a spillover, God knows what could happen. We are now on page 37. We will note that and now we are getting to the meat of the report, which contains the conclusions and recommendations.

We are dealing with section 8 of this report in two halves. The first part, 8.1, contains conclusions while 8.2 contains recommendations. The recommendations will probably be the most important part, but we will go down through the conclusions first. We are just saying that severe weather events are a natural phenomenon and we refer to what happened in November and January. Nobody controls the weather and there are general comments in the report. Managing severe weather events is about planning for them and understanding them and so on. There is no specific issue there.

Paragraph 3 states that the management of severe flooding in Ireland in November and the subsequent severe cold weather had several very positive dimensions in respect of prior preparation and response. We acknowledge that there are no known fatalities. Flooding has caused fatalities in several European countries, so it is important that we state there were no fatalities here. We give credit to all the individuals and the communities who worked voluntarily and beyond the call of duty.

That fact illustrates the importance of planning and of the proper resources being put in, as stated on paragraph 2 on page 38. To digress, TG4 showed a programme last night with Daithí Ó Sé in New Orleans, where there was not the proper resourcing and planning. That is critical.

We will come to that recommendation. Paragraph 4 on page 38——

My apologies, but I do not have a copy of the report. In the last two lines of paragraph 4, there appears to be a sense of "I will mind my own patch and that is it".


The committee needs to make a recommendation that there will be collective responsibility. The last two lines are symptomatic of where we have been going wrong, in particular regarding the Cork city floods.

I agree with the Senator in regard to the sentence. Throughout our deliberations as a committee, we repeatedly encountered a tendency on the part of the various relevant State bodies to define their responsibility more in terms of what it does not include rather than what it does. For example, the OPW states it deals with policy, not drainage. The fisheries boards stated they do this but not that, as did the ESB. They were all giving the line: "I am not responsible". It is a fair point that while every individual organisation has its own responsibility, there must be overall responsibility. We will include a recommendation in that regard.

It comes back to two single factors that were identified earlier in our deliberations on this issue. One is the issue of risk assessment, and that risk assessment can only be conducted properly if there is communication on the extent of risk across the agencies. The other point which came out with the national emergency plan was that unless the agencies actually pull together on this, the result will be a disjointed approach. If agencies are from the outset stating "This area is not necessarily our responsibility", when we run into a real emergency and have to appoint lead agencies, there will be a difficulty if that mentality is carried into a lead agency approach.

Yes. It is important to point to the content at the end of page 38 and the beginning of page 39. It states:

Although dealing with events of nature, [the committee] focused its deliberations not on apportioning blame, but on identifying where things should have been managed better. In doing so, it seeks only to ensure appropriate action is taken so that future events have a less severe impact on the country and citizens.

We are essentially saying we are not here to lay blame. Some of these matters may end up in court in due course and we do not have enough information to lay blame on one body or another at this stage.

The next paragraph states that the framework for major emergency management played an important role in ensuring the preparedness for the responses to severe weather events were as effective as they were in practice.

There is the fundamental question of who is in charge. We have had obfuscation, be it in regard to the emergency weather in January or in regard to the flooding. The most critical question that has to be answered is who is in charge. The report referred to the OPW being the lead agency.

We have a recommendation in regard to the Minister's Secretary General but we will deal with that exact issue. Paragraph 4 deals with the same issue. I circulated an amendment in this regard but I was not sure of the facts until I checked the ESB's documentation.

Is that on page 39?

Yes, it is at the end of paragraph 4. I want to insert the following sentence: "The ESB was not aware and therefore not involved in the development of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government major emergency management, MEN, framework". I was conscious the ESB was not involved in the Cork city event but it was confirmed that, for some reason, the ESB was not asked to be involved in the national emergency framework — it was not even aware it had been under way for the past three years. Considering the role the ESB has in regard to power supplies, pylons, dams and power stations, this was a major omission.

That was identified during the committee's visit to the Iniscarra dam. At that meeting, the ESB acknowledged that what is known as modelling, which is a type of risk assessment of different flood levels in the river, was not part of the CFRAM report.

Yes. Is it agreed we would insert that sentence? Agreed. I was not sure of its accuracy until I verified it since this was drafted.

The last paragraph states: "The Joint Committee is aware that a number of State bodies are reviewing the severe weather emergency".

Does the Chairman have an insert for page 40?

No, it is for page 41. We are now finished dealing with page 39 and move on to page 40.

I understand there is a recommendation for the opening line of page 40.

It states: "The number and range of State bodies that have powers or responsibilities regarding inland waterways is truly breathtaking." There is a recommendation in that regard. I will make a note on it.

That is still the outstanding difficulty.

It is. We recommend the OPW would take charge.

Senator Buttimer will be aware of the issue. Ballinhassig is the area involved. Cork County Council deals with the inland fisheries and all it wants to do is get a part of the river dredged.

We are all familiar with the point. We could stay for the day discussing this issue.

Paragraph 3 states that flood and severe weather preparation costs money, and refers to programmes. It contains nothing controversial. Paragraph 4 refers to there being much physical development on the flood plains. We welcome the publication of the planning guidelines on flood risk management which were issued last year. We also refer to the point that many people thought they lived in safe areas but got a shock last November. Finally, we state that serious lessons in regard to communications must be learned and we have recommendations in that regard.

The final sentence of paragraph 3 states: "Improving the prior management of severe weather risks, and improving the effectiveness of emergency responses, will cost money in terms of research, structural and non-structural risk management measures, response resources, equipment and supplies, and ongoing preventive maintenance of assets, and preparedness of responses will not improve if those resources are not put in place." This is self-explanatory. If we do not spend money, it will cost money. I wonder if this can be drawn out a little further.

That is in the conclusions. On the day of launch, different members will be free to highlight the different aspects.

Finally, we referred to communications. Is that agreed? Agreed.

We now move to page 41. There are one and a half pages of recommendations and I will go through them one by one. I have two amendments in regard to recommendation 1, which states: "The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government should complete and publish its review of the management of the severe weather events, and should specifically consider the following as part of the review". Some members want to include a reference that this review would be completed by the end of September 2010 in order to put a deadline on it. Are members satisfied with that suggestion?

If we proceed to paragraph 1.b. we can refer to the document I am issuing at present.

Is there a problem with the opening paragraph?

Is it agreed the review should be completed by the end of September 2010 or will I wait until the Deputy's document is dealt with?

We need to be very clear in this regard. There is the review the Minister said he was undertaking. We need to make a recommendation to him that he needs to issue a deadline for his review and we should give an indication as to what we would wish to see as the deadline to that review. There is also the matter with regard to reviewing an investigation that may come up as part of our own investigations, following which we may then determine to put forward further recommendations.

Is it proposed to add some of this to the report? The proposal is one and a half pages in length and I do not want one recommendation to be longer than the other ten recommendations.

One must not discourage effort.

I will provide some context. The flooding in Cork city was central to the work of the joint committee. The joint committee paid an extensive visit to Cork, met a number of the stakeholders and had a series of meetings with the ESB. However, subsequent correspondence from the ESB——

The Deputy should bear with me as I seek the documentation. The Deputy should proceed.

All members are aware of the extent to which the joint committee has examined what happened in Cork. The joint committee visited the Cork region, members of the Middle Parish group appeared before it and it had many meetings with the ESB. Even up until this week's committee meeting, the ESB has continued to send reports to members and I note two pertinent points arising from this correspondence. First, there is still no mention of the communication protocols between the ESB and the local authorities. In the ESB's list of conclusions, it states that it has carried out a preliminary report but that report makes no mention of what was a key issue considered by the joint committee, namely, the communication between the various agencies. Second, the ESB also notes that information it provided to members in earlier correspondence regarding the Carrigadrohid dam has been corrected in the most recent information provided. Consequently, it would not be unfair to state that to some extent, the information flow from the ESB has been a movable feast over the time the joint committee has been dealing with that organisation.

My proposal to the joint committee now is for a single clear, specific and determined action to come out of it. Approximately €100 million worth of damage was done to Cork city within the space of 24 hours. Fortunately, as the Chairman indicated earlier, no one was fatally injured. However, people's private residential and domestic lives were massively disturbed and it had a great effect on businesses and the city in general. I have outlined several points in my submission today and will go through them in detail. However, the joint committee should make a key recommendation to the effect that an independent investigation is required regarding what happened in Cork that evening. Information was presented to the joint committee with which neither I nor other members are satisfied. It is not members' job to apportion blame or responsibility to individual groups or to point fingers. However, it is their duty to recommend that information must be ascertained with regard to what happened that night.

I will repeat the point made by Deputy Ciarán Lynch. The Chairman alluded to this point at the top of page 39 of the report but I believe members do not have enough information arising from their deliberations to apportion blame. That said, a serious concern remains outstanding. Deputy Lynch's proposal is correct and I note that on the Friday and Saturday in question, Deputy Hogan and I, on behalf of the Fine Gael Party called for an independent investigation into what happened in Cork city. We were the first to do so and while it was not then popular in some quarters, it is the proper and only course of action that can take place. I fully support the need for, and the call to be included in the recommendations, that an independent investigation be held into what happened with regard to Cork city.

Another element to which the report makes reference is the fact that the ESB was not aware of certain issues regarding the emergency plan. Pertinent questions remain with regard to the role of the ESB and Deputy Ciarán Lynch is quite correct in this regard. In its dealings with the joint committee and with Oireachtas representatives, the ESB has changed by stealth certain things. I will conclude by stating that with regard to the management of the water and the role of the local authorities and different agencies, the joint committee must recommend that an independent investigation be held into what happened in Cork city.

Okay. Members are agreed this will be a recommendation. In order to proceed, perhaps we can go through the recommendations in the draft report and clear them. We can park some of them, which are related to this matter, and then we will agree on the wording and finalisation of this proposal.

Does the Chairman propose to go through the original recommendations and then to revert to the additional document?

Yes. We should go through the original draft to which I wish to make two small amendments myself.

I will outline the recommendations before we revert to the contents of the Deputy's document.

The first group of recommendations pertain to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Recommendation No. 1 is that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government should complete and publish a review of the management of the severe weather events and should consider specifically certain matters that I will set out as part of the review. Is it agreed to specify that such a review should be completed by September 2010?

Is that feasible?

Do members have a time in mind? What about December?

I suggest it should be completed by 1 November.

Very well. That would give the Department another month. Is is agreed to specify completion by 1 November? Agreed.

The Department should consider the following matters. First, whether a major emergency should have been declared at local or national level. In other words, the joint committee recommends that the Department should consider this issue but does not suggest whether it should have been declared or otherwise, as good reasons to not declare such an emergency were provided. Second, the Department should consider the speed and effectiveness with which the local and national authorities under the national emergency framework responded to both severe weather events. I note we are also dealing with the subsequent cold weather spell.

I propose to change the wording in respect of the third suggested subject for review because I am conscious that the ESB was not only not involved in the Cork city emergency plan but did not know about the national framework either. Consequently, I wish to change the wording in order that as part of its review, the Department should examine "The reasons the ESB was not aware of or involved in the development of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government's major emergency management framework and was not aware of the Cork city emergency plan prior to the November flooding event." The ESB was neither consulted on the national framework nor on the local plan and this review must provide a reason the ESB was omitted from both. I can understand the reason it was omitted from the local plan because if it was not included in the national template, it probably did not find its way down to the local template. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The fourth matter for the review should concern the extent and adequacy of the detailed, co-ordinated flood risk assessment between Cork City Council, the Office of Public Works and the ESB in the development of local emergency planning in Cork city under the major emergency framework. Without putting too fine a tooth on it, the chapter in the local Cork city plan dealing with flooding remains blank and it never consulted the ESB about flooding in Cork city, despite knowing of the existence of a major dam. This demonstrates the difficulties in this regard as the dam is outside the local authority boundary. I am conscious that in the south-west encompassing Cork and Kerry, I believe the Garda is heading up a southern review or something similar that takes the two counties together but that is ongoing and is a different issue.

Recommendation No. 2 is that in major emergencies, leadership must be provided by the Minister or, alternatively, by the Secretary General. While I mean no disrespect to Mr. Seán Hogan, who was excellent, no principal officer has the requisite standing when contacting chief executives or county managers. One must at least be at the same grade. The point is it must be a role for a Minister or——

This was identified during our deliberations.

Yes and this is a clear recommendation.

I wish to change the wording of recommendation No. 3 a little to refine it. This is a very strong recommendation. I wish to change the wording to read as follows: " The Government should oversee and sponsor an independent technical engineering review of the role and management of the ESB's hydroelectric schemes in view of the conflicting requirements of electricity generation, flood management and the provision of public water supplies." In other words, the joint committee will ask the Government to consider whether the ESB should continue to control these dams. That organisation has a single priority in respect of the dams, which is that it needs plenty of water but the local authorities have conflicting requirements in respect of flood management. Consequently, one must ask whether the ESB should control these dams.

An initial issue that emerged in this regard is that when members visited the Iniscarra dam, they discovered that the net contribution many such dams make to the national grid is minuscule.

Yes, it is tiny. In particular, this probably is true in respect of the dams on the rivers Lee and Shannon. The dams on the River Liffey — one of the Deputies knows where they are — do not lead to flooding because it is a longer, slower river. In terms of the two case studies, the question of whether the ESB should control its own dams should be examined.

That is a fair recommendation.

I am not making a conclusion.

I know, but it is a core question. An example is the ESB's role in the production of electricity in Cork.

Recommendation No. 4 is that the Department should ensure that local authorities are adequately resourced and continuously effective in the enforcement of building regulations as they apply to piping and water distribution networks and their susceptibility to extreme cold. During the severe weather, pipes froze in new estates because they were not at the proper depth beneath the ground.

Recommendation No. 5 is that the Department should take steps to ensure recent guidelines on the planning system for flood risk management are effective and enforced. The committee is agreed in this respect.

The next point is important. In conjunction with the Office of Public Works, OPW, the Department should ensure that urban water, waste water and drainage schemes supported by the water services investment programme are planned and prioritised with flood risk management considerations fully assessed. In a number of towns, joint surface water and sewerage drainage schemes flooded onto streets. The Government's investment programme should account for areas in which there are serious flood risk problems.

Recommendation No. 7 is that the Department should investigate the health, safety and public liability issues surrounding members of the public assisting in treating roads, paths and other properties in conditions of ice and snow and give clear guidance to local authorities in this regard. It was good that some people were encouraged by local authorities to help, but the liability issue needs to be examined.

Recommendation No. 8 is that the Department of Transport and the National Roads Authority, NRA, should oversee the management of a national programme of road salt procurement, distribution and storage to ensure sufficient stocks are maintained and available at local authorities in the event of a cold spell as severe as the prolonged event in December and January. This is not unreasonable.

Recommendation No. 9 is that the Department, in conjunction with local authorities, should research and identify water and waste water treatment and distribution infrastructure located in areas of significant flood risk and provide resources for appropriate protection works to be carried out. This relates to Cork.

Recommendation No. 9 has disappeared on my page.

A page is missing.

I am missing page 42.

I read the recommendation before today, but a page is missing. We are on page 42. I have a rough copy and will read it out, but it is available. Where local authorities' water and waste water treatment plants are in areas of high flooding, resources should be provided for appropriate protection works to be carried out.

Recommendation No. 10 is that the Department should prepare and circulate clear guidance to local authorities regarding the recoupment of emergency response costs to them by the Department in the event of severe weather emergencies. This is an important matter of financial housekeeping. Cork City Council has not been reimbursed for the flooding in its basement.

Cork County Council. There was an issue, but I am not sure whether it has been resolved.

Perhaps the council is pursuing an insurance claim. The point is that clear guidelines are required.

Recommendation No. 11 is that the OPW should commence and, if possible, accelerate the implementation of the Lee CFRAMS and commence the Shannon CFRAMS and those of other major river systems. The committee has agreed on this point.

Recommendation No. 12 is that the OPW should approve and fund all urgent minor flood relief measures identified by local authorities pending the completion of detailed flood risk assessment and management strategies except where there may be legal or other unavoidable reasons for not doing so.

Recommendation No. 13 is that the OPW should determine and prepare a national strategy for river drainage and maintenance measures to manage flood risk. It should also allocate sufficient resources and begin the strategy's implementation with local authorities.

Recommendation No. 14 is that the OPW should actively engage with and support local authorities in the preparation of detailed flood risk assessments under the major emergency planning framework.

Recommendation No. 15 is that appropriate flood early warning systems should be put in place by the OPW on all major river systems or parts thereof where a substantial ongoing flood risk is known to exist. Providing some degree of early warning systems in such places should not need to await the detailed studies planned under the CFRAMS process.

Recommendation No. 16 is that each local authority nominated as a principal response agency under the framework for emergency management should prepare specific flood and severe cold weather major emergency plans, including detailed risk assessments. Recommendation No. 17 is that such plans should seek to provide for the treatment of main, strategic and primary roads as well as regional and county roads that provide important accessibility during a severe cold weather period.

Recommendation No. 18 is that each local authority should prepare an inventory of water and waste water treatment and distribution infrastructure in its jurisdiction and set out measures that need to be taken to protect same from the risk of flooding.

Recommendation No. 19 is that each local authority should review its effectiveness in the treatment of roads during the severe December-January cold spell.

Recommendation No. 20 is that each local authority should develop and maintain a database of people who are vulnerable to the effects of floods and severe weather in its jurisdiction, subject to data protection and privacy considerations.

This is a key recommendation in respect of vulnerable people. In saying that, it is important that we have joined up planning and that the early warning system would get to them first. For example, no warning was given in certain Cork areas that were prone to flooding. In terms of recommendations Nos. 15 and 20, there needs to be joined up planning. It is critical that there be a database of people, given the difficulties experienced in many parts of the country.

The last recommendation on local authorities is straightforward. Recommendation No. 21 is that each local authority should include a separate budget figure for the drainage and maintenance of rivers in its annual budgets. This is something that local authorities do not do currently. It is their opinion that the drainage and cleaning of rivers and bridges is not a significant issue, but this is only the case until the floods arrive. A stitch in time saves nine is what our recommendation is trying to say. We will address the Deputy's sheet in a moment.

Recommendation No. 22 is that the Department of Finance should substantially increase the resourcing of the OPW for flood risk assessment and management measures, allowing the latter to progress the preparation and implementation of flood risk assessment reports and strategies for the major river systems simultaneously and without delay. We do not want one river done every four years. Rather, we want them done simultaneously.

Recommendation No. 23 is that the Government should consider and assess the effectiveness with which rivers and inland waterways are managed, controlled and regulated and consider the options for enhancing the co-ordination of responsibilities currently carried out by a multitude of agencies, including but not limited to the option of appointing a single rivers agency or a single agency for the River Shannon. We know of the difficulties experienced by groups protecting their policy areas. Will we discuss the additional recommendation?

Can we revert to point No. 5 of the ESB's letter?


The ESB's letter, which I mentioned earlier. We need a specific recommendation.

What is the Deputy's point?

One could almost copy and paste that section of the ESB's letter into our report. Dated 2 July 2010, it addresses the joint committee's report on severe weather events.

On what page of the letter is the Deputy?

Page 3, point No. 5.

On flood risks. The Deputy should read it out.

According to the ESB, flood risk requires assessment and action by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government under the major emergency framework, MEF. The ESB respectfully requested that it be included in the framework with immediate effect. It also believes that relevant local authority, regional and multi-agency emergency plans should include a specific plan for flood emergencies using the procedures and guidelines that form part of the MEF. This would enable improved management of flood emergencies. We could take the sentiment of this paragraph in the letter and turn it into a recommendation.

Is that agreed? Agreed. It will be recommendation No. 24.

Is the Chairman recommending that the OPW, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government or a local authority should set a defined percentage of its budget aside?

I said each local authority should have a separate budget figure. At present——

We are not recommending a specific one.

No. I said each local authority should include a separate budget figure for the drainage and maintenance of rivers in its annual budget. At present it comes out of the roads maintenance budget.

That is correct.

Expenditure on dredging rivers and bridges comes out of the road maintenance budget. Some counties spend no money on river and bridge maintenance and others do. Flooding is an important issue and what is being spent on drainage and maintenance by local authorities should be separate from the roads budget. I am not talking about major dredging schemes.

Should recommendation No. 1 include why a major emergency was not declared at national level? We are letting them off the hook.

I will take the committee through this. We asked Cork city and county councils why they did not declare an emergency. I was of the same view before this work and I learned something during the process, and that is good. They explained that if they were to call a major emergency, which they chose not to do, it would involve all emergency agencies, including the HSE. If an emergency is called in Cork or Dublin, the first thing the HSE is obliged to do is clear beds in hospitals for people coming in. The HSE would have had to clear accident and emergency departments. It was felt the event was not serious enough to require this to happen. One of the knock-on effects of an emergency not being called was that people in the local authorities were not in an emergency mode. They stated the consequences of declaring an emergency would have wreaked havoc on the hospitals and I had not appreciated that. That is why they held off.

On Deputy Tuffy's point, can we recommend that a coded alert system be put in place? I take the Chairman's point that if there was an emergency——

There would be a big knock-on.

Then we should have a level——

Half an emergency and a small emergency.

There is a code red, a code amber and code green; there are three colours. National security in the UK and the US are coded orange and red. Why can we not recommend the same here?

The question on whether an emergency should have been declared is fair enough. Perhaps levels of emergency should be considered. I do not know.

I think we should.

I thought the same initially.

We all did when we attended the meeting that morning when it was explained to us.

In recommendation No 1, on whether a major emergency should have been declared at local or national level, we could include whether there should be various levels of emergency for various future events.

I think we should.

An emergency could be declared which involves the local authority, the Army and the Garda Síochána without involving the HSE.

With regard to anomalies created by this, if memory serves me correctly Mr. Hogan from the national emergency committee told us that Cork County Council never declared an emergency to him. An emergency was taking place in Cork and the dogs on the street knew it because they were swimming around in it. With regard to Senator Buttimer's point, one does not need to declare a full alarm bells and whistles type of emergency but if something happens in a locality there needs to be communication between the local emergency team and the national emergency committee and this did not happen.

Will we add in a rider to recommendation No. 1 on whether an emergency should have been declared at local or national level to create No. 1(a) to consider various levels of emergency? What wording should we use?

There needs to be----

A coded alert system.

We need a more technical word than "variety".

It would be to consider whether there should be various levels of graded emergencies. There could be an emergency that would not affect the HSE.

The US and the UK have coded security levels, which is elevated depending on the situation. We could do the same here.

We will add that to the recommendation as 1(a).

Perhaps the Chairman should highlight why this recommendation is being made. We know why but——

We need to explain it.

We need to include some words on why we are doing it.

If members agree we will include a paragraph in our conclusions to state we note that no major emergency was declared by any local authority or organisation involved as they felt to do so would involve the HSE and other State organisations whose involvement was not necessary in this particular issue. It is a very extreme measure and there is no halfway house. In our conclusions we will recommend that the Government should consider a graded level of emergency, depending on the nature of the event.

We will go through Deputy Lynch's recommendations and we will not duplicate anything we have already covered. Deputy Lynch's recommendations begin on paragraph 3 of his document.

I will take it from the top. It is proposed that this be inserted prior to the heading "Other Recommendations" and after the heading "Local Authorities". The heading would be "Cork City Flood" and it would be at the top of page 43.

To provide some context, Deputy Fitzpatrick and I had a conversation in Cork one evening. At the end of the process we might have felt we were engineers——

We were very technical that night.

——but we are not engineers and there is a particular type of skill set required to examine some of the issues that evolved over the period. It is in this context that I lay this series of amendments before the committee.

The opening paragraphs state:

The Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is satisfied, based on the enquiry it has undertaken and the information gathered to date, that there is an urgent necessity for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the flooding of the Lee valley and Cork City downstream of the Inniscarra Dam on November 19th / 20th 2009. Such an investigation should be resourced so as to retain appropriate technical expertise at its discretion.

The JCEHLG regards such an investigation as essential in order to understand the causes leading to the November 19th/ 20th flood and to identify the appropriate immediate steps that can be taken in order to eliminate or minimise the prospect of similar circumstances arising in future, and if and when they occur, to ensure as far as possible that they do not result in such catastrophic consequences for people in Cork, their homes and businesses.

The JCEHLG therefore recommends that an in-depth investigation be conducted into the events surrounding the flooding of Cork City on the 19th & 20th November 2009.

I propose a recommendation that an independent expert investigation team be established to carry out this task. I do not propose another inquiry but rather that a team of experts would be given the task of going out to do a job in a specific period of time and not invite groups before it. It would forensically examine the information we put together over recent months and determine facts and conclusions from this.

I propose that the committee recommend that the independent expert investigation team would comprise independent experts whose skill-sets reflect the relevant areas to be investigated such as hydrology, metrology, surveying and engineering. I also propose that the committee recommend a specific timeframe be set for the independent expert investigation team to complete its task and that this would be no longer than four months following the establishment of the expert team. As soon as that group is put together it would have a four month deadline. We saw in the roll-out of electronic voting that the group was put together a year and a half ago and we still do not know when it will——

Who are we saying should establish this? Is it the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government?

That should be included in the first recommendation.

I also propose that the committee recommend that the brief of the independent expert investigation team would provide for a period in which relevant submissions can be made by the public and other bodies.

The committee also recommends:

That the independent expert investigation team, along with other matters as it deems appropriate in order to complete its investigation, would examine matters such the extent to which risk assessment was carried out in regard to fluvial flooding caused by the various discharge rates in both dams; the extent to which the relevant individual agencies had access to this data; the manner in which this data was shared and communicated between the relevant agencies and, ultimately, how data with regard to various risk assessment levels, arising from increasing discharge rates, were reflected in the Cork City Emergency Plan.

That is indicated in the recommendation but I believe it is more specific to this report.

That is right.

The recommendation continues, "The manner and sequence by which communications and warnings were issued between agencies along with those issued by each agency to both individual members of the public and to the wider general public in the period both leading up to and at the time of the flood". One of the points this committee heard over the course of its deliberations was that there had been concern with regard to the last communication made on the evening of the 19 November. There was also the fact that a lady living in the Inniscarra region received information at 4.30 p.m. that was never received by the city council , namely, that the waters would be hitting. We must bear in mind that this information was in excess of what the city council had.

Before the Deputy turns the page, I might add a word. In place of "the manner and sequence by which communications and warnings were issued", I would put in, "the manner, sequence and adequacy".

"Adequacy". I thank the Chair.

The ESB will say it issued a warning but it was not adequate.

The next part is a determination as to what should be regarded as appropriate water levels held at both dams in the period both leading up and at the time of the flood.

There was a recommendation. I said the Government should have a technical engineering review of the management of the dam.

That will come up as part of an investigation, in any event.

Do we now blend that into recommendation No. 3?

If an independent expert group goes about this job it will examine that issue in any case. That would be my reading of the situation.

So that there is no conflict, in asking the Government to have a review of the role and management of the dam, I am anxious that we do not duplicate matters.

It is not duplication. The rationale behind this is that there were concerns with regard to the storage levels behind both dams in the week or two leading up to the flood. There is a theory that if the ESB had been discharging at 300 cubic metres per second up to noon on that day it would never have exceeded that level later that evening. There is an issue, therefore, with regard to storage and discharge which needs to be looked at. As I stated, examining flood management is very much like that man on theTitanic who went down to the engine room, looked in and said so much water is going to come in that the ship will sink in two hours. Floods are a bit like that. There is so much water in one location and it is going to arrive in another location in two or three hours. It is a matter of measuring what the impact will be. That is critical to this examination.

Point 4 is the implementation of all recommendations arising out of the ESB 1986 flood report and the implications arising from same in the context of the 2010 flood. I say this because the 1986 report examined flood levels in or around 300 cubic metres per second. At the time of the 1986 flood water came down the Mardyke in Cork but never actually went over the doorsills. A number of recommendations were made at the time of that report, which is a very good one. They mentioned dealing with the tributaries feeding into the Lee below the Inniscarra dam, monitoring and measuring them. It was unclear as to what level of monitoring and management there was on the evening of 19 November. In addition, the 1986 report determined that a specific release of water from the dam would cause a specific problem to Cork city so in terms of risk assessment we knew this from the 1986 report

All other things being equal.

This issue leads to recommendation No. 5. We know from the 1986 report that a certain discharge of water will cause a specific problem for Cork city. The recommendation seeks to discover whether all the recommendations in that report were implemented. They may well have been and perhaps no situation could have been put in place to stop what happened on 19 November. However, that 1986 report requires to be examined as will, probably, other reports.

No. 5 refers to "the implications regarding water retention and discharge levels arising from the putting in place of a spill-way at the Carrigadrohid dam in 1991 and how this was reflected in the ESB's regulation governing both dams". There remains a level of uncertainty here. Even the most recent report mentions discharges taking place through the sluice gates of Carrigadrohid dam but we have learned also that the spill-way gate in that dam had water flowing over it. There was a change of capacity between 1986——

There was, of the dam.

——and 2010 by the introduction of the slipway. To my mind, this committee has not been able to establish what are the implications in the context of 2009.

The first time the slipway carried water was the night in question.

I will insert an extra point at the end. The Deputy notes that this report will take four months, or whatever. I shall include, "given that we have asked elsewhere in our recommendations that the Government establish an independent technical engineering review of the role of the dam". As a last point we will include that these conclusions should be forwarded to the independent technical engineering review rather than have one duplicate the other.

This has a shorter timeframe.

In regard to the OPW recommendations——

Is that agreed by the committee?

I hope the Deputy will agree with me on the presentation of this. I see the first two paragraphs of that going into our conclusion section and the recommendations will start in their own section. We will reword it as the recommendations of the committee.

The first two paragraphs will go into conclusions and from there it will be recommendations. Thank you.

As a general point in regard to the OPW, I believe local authorities will be very disappointed if we do not say anything about more long-term flood relief schemes. My understanding of what the flood policy review group stated in 2004 was that there should be sustained investment in such flood relief works. There is a lot of evidence that substantial investment works. Mallow was given as an example.

As was Kilkenny.

In my own area of Lucan there was substantial investment some years ago. We should say something about the need for sustained——

Then let us say it.

We will mention the need for sustained strategic investment in flood relief schemes——

We are speaking of the OPW.

——that have been approved. Many of them have been approved but are taking years to go through the different stages. We shall indicate sustained strategic investment in approved flood relief schemes throughout the country.

Where there is a known requirement.

Rather than wait for new reports. We will put that in.

It does not tie the Government down too much.

We are putting the Cork issue ahead of the local authorities. We have agreed the wording for everything and the secretariat will be able to get everything we said on the tape because it would have been impossible to write everything as we were speaking. It will all be worked into the report.

There is one last item, namely, annexes.

We are now playing with words but we have put a deadline on the Minister's report to the first of——

It was 1 November

We mentioned, "an urgent necessity for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the flooding". Would it not be better to have everything coming in after the Minister's report was concluded? When we ask him to do an urgent report do we mean it is to start as of a particular date? It is playing with words.

We got the knowledge that it went to a situation where official Ireland was going to go into a shutdown for the following six weeks.

I will take the Deputy at his word.

In terms of the mechanics of putting this together I agree with Deputy Fitzpatrick that we may be running into a sequencing difficulty with regard to the two reports running in tandem. They may.

In summary, the Minister commissioned a report months ago that we have not yet seen. We want that done. Deputy Lynch's report is specific to Cork. We have asked for an overall report in regard to the ESB's role in the management of all its dams. Deputy Lynch's report is specific to County Cork. We have asked for an overall report from the ESB on its role in the management of all dams, whether along the River Shannon or in County Cork. The Cork report will feed into it because Cork was not the only county affected; there were issues with the Ardnacrusha dam and the Parteen weir also.

Should we mention the flood mapping programme? It is a large plank of the flood management programme.

Who is responsible for mapping?

The OPW engages in flood mapping.

Is that the same as the CFRAMS, catchment flood risk assessment and management study?

Perhaps that is the word for it. If that is the case, fine.

Are there flood maps for every area?

The office is going through the matter gradually. It is mapping all non-flood risk areas.

Is that separate from the CFRAMS report?

I do not know, but it is a matter for planners and county councils. It is worth mentioning because it is a large plank.

We will definitely include the call that the OPW complete its programme of publishing flood maps for each region.

Yes, as they apply to local authorities.

Will we meet at 2.30 p.m. next Tuesday?

The committee will meet at 2.15 p.m. to deal with correspondence and the launch will take place at 2.30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The joint committee adjourned at 3.35 p.m. until 2.15 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 July 2010.