I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that the Baile Mhúirne and Ballymakeera Flood Relief scheme is currently at outline design stage, and the preferred options for the scheme are in the process of being finalised.
The River Sullane has a history of freshwater pearl mussels, which have protected status as an Annex II listed species under the EU Habitats Directive. An environmental survey was carried out to establish the status of the population and the likely impact of any works.
Given the impact the proposed works could have on the Fresh Water Pearl Mussel population, a proposal to translocate Fresh Water Pearl Mussel from the River Sullane and reintroduce them post works was submitted to, and has now been approved by, the NPWS and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, allowing the scheme preparations to progress to site investigation, which will inform the preferred options for the scheme. A site investigation was completed in Q3 2018 and the results will further assist in determining the preferred options, and in refining construction cost estimates.
The emerging preferred option was presented to members of the public and relevant stakeholders at a second Public Information Day in March 2018. A public exhibition of the preferred scheme is expected to take place in Spring 2019.
When these stages are successfully completed and, subject to the proposals being accepted by the public and the stakeholders, and the scheme being technically, environmentally and economically viable, the scheme will then proceed to formal Confirmation by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under the Arterial Drainage Acts 1945 and 1995, and then move onto detailed design stage, following which the scheme can progress to construction stage.
In the interim, the OPW has approved funding of €187,248 for temporary flood defence works in Ballymakeera under its Minor Flood Mitigation Works & Coastal Protection Scheme. In addition, OPW environmental consultants (RPS) for the Scheme have prepared a Preliminary Invasive Alien Species Management Plan (IASMP) for the OPW in response to the findings of ecological survey work undertaken during 2017 and 2018. This plan identifies the presence and location of invasive species around or close to the works area of the FRS. These include Giant Knotweed, Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Knotweed.
The preliminary IASMP has been prepared in order to commence treatment of Invasive Species in the immediate vicinity of the proposed scheme works area in advance of interim and main scheme works and has been provided to Cork County Council, who have agreed to undertake treatment of invasive species for the Scheme on behalf of the OPW.
The optimal time to begin treatment of knotweed will be late summer / early autumn 2019.
My Office continues to liaise with Cork County Council and local representatives on this Scheme.