The EU ‘Floods’ Directive came into force in 2007, and requires the Member States to undertake a Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment to identify the areas of potentially significant flood risk within their territories, to prepare maps of the flood hazard and risk for these areas, and then to prepare Flood Risk Management Plans setting out measures aimed at managing and reducing the flood risk within these areas. The ‘Floods’ Directive also requires Member States to exchange information and coordinate in undertaking these steps in cross-border river basins.
It was agreed in 2009 by the Office of Public Works and the Department for Infrastructure, Rivers of Northern Ireland that a Cross-Border Coordination Group, supported by a Cross-Border Technical Coordination Group, would be established to facilitate the exchange of information and coordination in the implementation of the Directive. The Group has met on a number of occasions, and has ensured that information has been exchanged as necessary, and that there is a good mutual awareness of the approaches to implementation in both jurisdictions. In particular, for areas of potentially significant flood risk that are on or near the border such as Lifford in Co. Donegal and Strabane in Northern Ireland, the two organisations have liaised closely to ensure a common understanding of the risk and the appropriate measures for such areas.
In addition, representatives from the OPW have attended and participated in relevant meetings in Northern Ireland during the implementation of the Directive. Similarly, representatives from the Department for Infrastructure, Rivers have been members of the Steering Groups for the relevant Catchment-based Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Projects, and are also members of the National Floods Directive Coordination Group that is chaired by the OPW. This has helped ensure coordination and exchange of information on a regular basis at the strategic and operational levels.
The matter of joint, cross-border activity was considered by the Group during its early meetings, and it was concluded that due to legacy work and for technical and administrative reasons, the implementation of the Directive would not be undertaken by joint action. The Department for Infrastructure, Rivers and the OPW have however coordinated closely in the implementation of the Directive within their respective jurisdictions, as previously noted, and have also liaised in more detail on particular matters such as flood forecasting and hydrometric monitoring.
Further, more general cross-border coordination has also been ongoing in the field of flood risk management through bilateral meetings of the two organisations for many years, and through the Irish National Hydrometric Working Group and Joint National Committee of the International Hydrological Programme and the International Commission for Irrigation and Drainage that the Department for Infrastructure, Rivers are members of.