I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 to 107, inclusive, together.
On April 11th 2017, the Government agreed the administrative arrangements for a once-off Voluntary Homeowners Relocation Scheme for those primary residential properties that flooded between, or as a result of flooding between 4th December, 2015 and 13th January, 2016. This is a national scheme of humanitarian assistance, targeting aid at those worst affected properties, for which there are no alternative feasible measures.
The Government decision confirmed that a homeowner had to meet a number of conditions to be eligible for assistance under this scheme, including:
- That floodwater entered and damaged the building during the relevant dates such as to render it uninhabitable.
- That the property was the homeowner’s primary residence at the time of the floods.
- That the affected property must have a significant probability of the recurrence of the flood depth, duration or frequency on a scale that could cause further serious and similar damage to the home.
- That the property is not due to or may not benefit from a planned or possible future major, minor or individual flood defence scheme.
- That the property may not be protected adequately from being flooded in the future, at an economically feasible cost, through other flood mitigation works including minor works, individual property protection or other possible measures that can be considered at this time.
- That the homeowner is unable to obtain flood risk insurance.
At this time, in relation to those homeowners being considered under the scheme, the OPW is working with each of the Local Authorities, using their extensive and detailed local knowledge, to consider approximately 70 homes that have been flooded during the event may benefit from a known or possible engineering solution. A further 31 homeowners have been contacted and/or met by the OPW under the administrative arrangements for the scheme, of which the OPW is seeking further information from 7 of these homeowners.
Where it has been established that there is no viable engineering solution at this initial stage of assessment, the Local Authorities have contacted homeowners known to have flooded during the period in question. These homeowners have been asked to make contact with the OPW in relation to being considered under the scheme.
The numbers of homes within the process are changing regularly as homeowners make contact with the OPW and as assessments are completed.
The OPW has budgeted up to €3m this year for the potential costs associated with this scheme.
Shannon Group & Lake Levels
The Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group met on six occasions in 2016. During 2016, the primary focus of the Group was to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the various agencies and set out a Work Programme. In 2017, a number of sub-committees were established in accordance with the Group's Terms of Reference to progress the delivery of initiatives agreed by the Group. The Group met formally twice in 2017 with sub-committee and other bilateral meetings taking place more frequently as required. The Group will meet twice during 2018.
Information about the Group is available on the OPW website, www.opw.ie.
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 has been repeated for the Winter 2017/2018.
Interdepartmental Flood Policy Co-ordination Group
The Interdepartmental Flood Policy Coordination Group, that I chair, met twice in 2015, four times in 2016, and once in 2017. The most recent meeting was held on 7th February, 2018.
In November 2016, Government agreed an interim report from the Interdepartmental Flood Policy Coordination Group setting out progress on its work and making appropriate recommendations for consideration by Government. This report is available to view on the OPW website at
At the Group’s most recent meeting, members reported on progress in their areas in national flood policy that included updates in relation to the National Adaptation Framework, published by Minister Denis Naughten T.D. on 19 January 2018 and the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme and the associated Flood Risk Management Plans.
National Flood Forecasting & Warning Service
A Steering Group has been established to steer, support and oversee the establishment of a new National Flood Forecasting Service. The Steering Group has met on fifteen occasions to date, agreed a Terms of Reference and prepared and agreed an implementation plan comprising a number of phases, including an initial set-up phase and a development and trial phase. Work is now progressing on these phases. The service will deal with flood forecasting from fluvial (river) and coastal sources. When established it will involve the issuing of flood forecasts and general alerts.
Given the complexities involved in establishing, designing, developing and testing this new service, it is anticipated that it will take at least 5 years before it is fully operational and it is estimated it will require a staffing complement of 15 full-time posts. Met Éireann has appointed two staff members to date to the project.
Individual Property Protection
The Interdepartmental Flood Policy Co-ordination Group this year is considering the potential costs and benefits associated with the introduction of an individual property protection scheme.
The Group is being informed by two different pilot projects, in Thomastown and Graiguenamanagh in County Kilkenny and Crossmolina in County Mayo. The Co-ordination Group’s work, when completed, will be submitted to Government for consideration in the context of the merits of the introduction by Government of any scheme to support individual property protection measures.
Both pilots are being funded through the OPW’s Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme. In respect of the Kilkenny pilot, the OPW is funding the costs of a research and feasibility study into the potential provision of individual property protection. Kilkenny County Council is considering the consulting engineers’ preliminary report to help inform recommendations to the OPW on the next stages of the pilot. To date the council have drawn down some €30,000 towards the cost of the study.
In Crossmolina, consultants completed surveys of individual properties to assess their suitability for floodgates and Mayo County Council procured a contractor who is currently engaging with the community and installing the defences at the relevant properties. The OPW has provided some €237,000 in funding to date for this pilot.
The review of the Minor Works Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme was completed in June 2017 which resulted in many improvements to the eligibility/benefit criteria of the Scheme.
For example, the upper financial threshold has been increased substantially from €500,000 to €750,000 and benefit allowances have been updated to reflect different property types, with inclusion of farm yard/buildings as commercial premises.
All Local Authorities were notified of the revised criteria, which are effective for applications received after 1 June 2017. The revised criteria are available on www.opw.ie.
The OPW will shortly be publishing on www.flooding.ie guidance to landowners in relation to the maintenance of watercourses on or near their lands in the context of managing flood risk.