€1.5bn Needed To combat future flooding risks

Brian Hayes, Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works, today (Thursday 10 April) opened a major Conference on Flood Risk Management organised by OPW in Dublin Castle Conference Centre.

Speaking today, Minister Hayes said ” I have visited many communities which have suffered so severely from storms, flooding and tidal surges. The physical damage has been on an immense scale .

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The damage is not just physical; it is also deeply psychological and emotional. Communities and individuals have been battered in every sense of the word”.

Minister Hayes welcomed the timing of the Conference and outlined how “it will provide an opportunity for the public and interested stakeholders to participate in an open public policy debate on flood risk management in Ireland and will discuss national priorities and public funding in relation to this issue. The latest flood is not just a moment for comment – we need a detailed discussion on the effects of climate change and those deniers need to start paying attention”.

Minister Hayes commented “I am glad to see such a response to our invitation to attend this conference today as my Office wants to set out clearly what we are doing as the lead government agency tasked with providing flood defences. We also need to hear from all voices – from communities urban and rural, from planners, business groups and environmentalists, the insurance industry and those working on solutions”.

“€45 million has been provided for the OPW Capital Flood Risk Management Allocation in 2014. This will enable my Office to continue with its comprehensive strategy of investment in flood defences and mitigation measures. The Government has provided a further €70 million for a programme of repair and remediation works necessitated by storm damage of recent months”.

Minister Hayes said: “This capital allocation re-affirms the commitment of the Government and I to tackling the problem of flooding throughout the country, despite very difficult decisions made in many expenditure areas. A total of €225 million has been set aside for capital flood risk management and mitigation expenditure for the period 2012-2016. This has enabled the OPW, in conjunction with its Local Authority partners, to address both existing and future flood risk pro-actively and systematically through a number of complementary programmes”.

Minister Hayes outlined: “the OPW 2014 funding envelope will enable us to build on the progress made to date under these programmes and in partnership with the relevant Local Authorities, will work towards:-

– completion of 4 major projects at Ennis, Fermoy, Waterford City and the River Wad.”

– commencing construction of 6 major projects at Bandon, Skibbereen, Templemore, Claregalway, Bray and the South Campshires.

– continuing to progress towards implementation 20 schemes at Enniscorthy, Dunkellin, Arklow, Crossmolina, Clonakilty, Raphoe, the Lower Lee, Glanmire, Douglas, the Lower Morrell, the River Camac, Crookstown, Skerries, Ennis South, Ballymakeera, Midleton, Portmarnock, Bellurgan, Clontarf and the River Poddle.”

Addressing the conference, Minister Hayes continued: “On funding I want to be very clear on my remarks here today. Despite the significant envelope of funds available for flood defences – more capital funds will have to be found as we prioritise this area. It is likely that the results of the CFRAM project will highlight the need for over 250 additional schemes. The cost of that could be closer to 1.5 billion euro and on the existing funding timeline, that could take over 30 years to complete those schemes. We don’t have that time. Yes, the annual spend on flood defences has more than doubled from what was the case 10 years ago. Yes, we have ring-fenced capital funding for flood defences despite the collapse in the public finance position. But the truth is we are playing a game of catch up in comparison with other countries. We have to run faster to catch up because of decades of under investment in this area. That’s just the reality of our position”.

The Minister concluded by saying that he “was delighted to welcome to the Conference a broad range of speakers with specialist knowledge and expertise, and that the Conference would reflect on the lessons to be learned from the recent storms. This conference, together with the development of the OPW CFRAM maps, which is producing a wealth of new information on river systems, hydrology and flood risk will greatly improve our understanding of the journey we are on and the solutions we need to bring forward”.