The Arterial Drainage (Amendment) Act 1995 empowered the Commissioners of Public Works to carry out drainage schemes for the alleviation of localised flooding and was enacted following the widespread flooding which occurred in 1994-95. A list of nine priority areas was identified at that time as follows:
· Mulkear river, Newport, County Tipperary
· Nanny river, Duleek, County Meath
· Sixmilebridge, County Clare
· Gort Town, Bridge Street
· Mulkear river, Cappamore, County Limerick
· Bandon river, Dunmanway
· Nore river, Kilkenny city
· Barrow river, Carlow town
· Williamstown, County Galway
Messrs Ove Arup and Partners, Consulting Engineers, were commissioned in May 1996 to carry out a scoping report on areas around the country prone to flooding with a view to advising the Office of Public Works on the compilation of a priority list of ten to 20 areas to be examined for future flood relief schemes, in effect, to prioritise schemes in some order so that a national flood relief programme of works could be carried out on an ongoing-phased basis. In excess of 280 areas were brought to the attention of the consultants in this way. Several local authorities subsequently advised the OPW of further various locations around the country which were subject to flooding problems. All of this gave rise to the OPW's ongoing work programme of flood relief schemes.
To date, flood relief schemes have been completed at the following locations: the Mulkear river catchment at Cappamore, County Limerick — scheme works started in 1998 and completed in 2000; Newport, County Tipperary — scheme works started in 1997 and completed in 1998; Nanny River, Duleek, County Meath — scheme started 1997 and completed 1998; Sixmilebridge, County Clare — started 1996 and completed 1997; Gort Town, Bridge Street, County Galway — started 1996 and completed 1997; Lacken, Ardrahan, County Galway — carried out in 1997; Maam Valley, County Galway — completed January 2001; Hazelhatch, County Kildare, Shinkeen stream catchment — scheme completed end 2001; Dunmanway, County Cork, Bandon river catchment — scheme started in 2000 and completed 2001; Belclare, County Galway, Clare river catchment — a flood relief scheme was completed, using powers under the Arterial Drainage Act 1945, in 1995; Bridgend, County Donegal — small scheme carried out by the OPW in 2000; and Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, Suir river catchment — completed 2003.
In Kilkenny city a major flood relief scheme is currently under construction — Nore river catchment. The construction works commenced in September 2001 and are due for completion by end of 2004. The implementation of the interim flood alleviation works on the River Tolka in both Dublin city and county Meath, by OPW direct labour, have largely been completed at a cost of €2 million approximately. Works also continued by direct labour on the Morrell river, County Kildare.
During 2003 engineering reports were completed along with outline design for flood relief schemes in Mallow and Fermoy, both on the Munster Blackwater river.
Pre-feasibility-feasibility studies were commenced by OPW on the River Slaney, Enniscorthy, River Slaney, Tullow, River Mall, Templemore, and certain areas of the River Shannon. Studies funded by OPW were also commenced by relevant local authorities on the River Mornington, Mornington, River Avoca, Arklow, and the Dublin coastal zone risk assessment.
Local authorities were also put in funds to carry out flood relief works and studies in numerous locations throughout the country, for example, in Limerick city, Clancy's Strand, Athlone, River Al, Freemount, County Cork, Freemount Stream, and various areas in County Wicklow.
Proposed flood relief schemes for Clonmel, County Tipperary, Suir river catchment, Carlow Town, Barrow river catchment, and John's River, Waterford city, have all completed public exhibition stage.
While the OPW has been fully engaged in the implementation of the above programme of flood relief it has to be recognised that the increased frequency of serious flooding events in the last number of years has been a matter of great national concern. I therefore announced in November 2002 a major review of national flooding policy so that the Government, through the OPW and local authorities, would be in a position to respond adequately to this major issue. Although the OPW is engaged in ongoing flood relief measures throughout the country, I initiated the review to develop a streamlined national flooding policy that would deal with the growth and complexity of the flooding problem.
The purpose of the review was to assess the extent of the problem countrywide, clarify roles and responsibilities of the various agencies involved, and recommend practical action to deal with the scourge of flooding. The review was carried out by a group representing the major stakeholders — the OPW, the Departments of Finance, Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, and Agriculture and Food, local authorities and representatives of farming organisations and IBEC. The review group received submissions from, and consulted with, a further wide range of relevant bodies. The review group has completed its work and its report has been circulated to all Departments for consideration before being submitted to Government for approval. Subject to Government approval, I hope to publish the report in the very near future.