Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 26 March 2013
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht
Property Insurance: Discussion (Resumed) with Kildare County Council
Today we will discuss with representatives from Kildare County Council difficulties in obtaining home insurance for properties in areas which have experienced extreme weather events. I welcome in particular my fellow Tipperary man, Mr. Michael Malone, the county manager, Mr. Alan Dunney, senior executive engineer, and Mr. Joe Boland, director of services for water services and the environment. I thank them for their attendance today.
I draw to the attention of the witnesses that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. Witnesses are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against a person or persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. I advise the witnesses that their opening statement and any other documents they have submitted to the committee will be published on the committee's website after this meeting. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
We have been discussing the topic of flooding and insurance with a number of stakeholders in recent months.
Consequently, the joint committee is greatly looking forward to the witnesses' considerable advice and expertise in that field. An issue of specific concern to the joint committee is that of geocoding and, if possible, the witnesses should address this. I now invite Mr. Malone to address the committee.
Mr. Michael Malone:
At the outset, I thank the joint committee for its invitation to Kildare County Council to attend this meeting to outline our experiences in dealing with flooding problems and by association, in helping to assess or address the difficulties in obtaining home insurance for properties in areas that have experienced extreme weather events. This presentation does not purport to be a solution to all different flooding scenarios that exist around the country, given the variety of scale, complexity and cost that may be involved in addressing problems nationwide. However, we will endeavour to reflect examples of solutions that may have secured positive outcomes. The fundamental approach we have adopted in dealing with flooding problems is based on a number of principles. First, we have taken a strategic view on flooding issues based on specific flood studies leading to the development of major and minor work programmes. We have been informed by the National Climate Change Strategy 2007–12 and have endeavoured to secure a co-ordinated response from all the relevant stakeholders. The Office of Public Works, OPW, is one of the central stakeholders involved in all the schemes. Some years ago, we also decided to set up a dedicated resource within Kildare County Council to deal with this issue and Mr. Alan Dunney is leading that section. We have undertaken and continue to undertake extensive consultation with elected members, local communities and other stakeholders. In light of the limited resources available, we work towards pooling interagency expertise and financial resources. We prepare an annual work programme linked to the strategic overview and engage with persons experiencing insurance cover difficulties. While they come to us, I make the point that our role is to reduce and not to eliminate the risk of flooding. Mr. Dunney will allude to this point in his presentation to members.
Our approach has been to focus on small schemes where limited resources can secure significant results. This has been done primarily through Mr. Dunney's work in respect of developing plans and working with the various agencies. Obviously, we also are involved in the larger catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, studies with the Office of Public Works. As the Vice Chairman has indicated, the colleagues accompanying me are Mr. Joe Boland, director of services, who has responsibility for the water and environmental services portfolio for the Kildare local authorities and Mr. Alan Dunney, who manages the flood alleviation programme. We supplied a written presentation for members, which I assume they have to hand. However, we also have decided it might be appropriate to make a PowerPoint presentation to give the joint committee some examples of the work on the ground and with that, I will hand over to Mr. Dunney.
Mr. Alan Dunney:
I thank the county manager and will do my best to get through this presentation in a timely fashion. I will consider the subject under nine headings as follows: the background; our approach to delivering schemes; the various schemes delivered under the capital programme with the OPW; the schemes delivered under the non-coastal minor works programme with the OPW; the level of expenditure; our future programme; our engagement with the OPW in respect of the CFRAM studies; the planning context; and to tie it up in conclusion, how the county council deals with the issue of property insurance.
By way of background, there have been six fairly major flood events in County Kildare since 1993. They took place in June 1993 and November 2000 and on 9 August 2008, 16 August 2008, 27 November 2009 - which was a very big one - and 1 January 2010. After the flood events of 1993 and 2000, Kildare County Council commissioned a number of reports for areas that generally have been at risk of flooding in the county. A lot of work was done on this before 2008, particularly along the Morrell River, as well as some bits and pieces in Leixlip. Thereafter, in August 2008, the county council set up a dedicated flood alleviation section, which I head.
Since 2008, our approach has been to develop a good working relationship with the OPW and the other agencies that have an impact on the county, such as Waterways Ireland, Irish Rail, Naas Town Council and our own area engineering offices. As members can imagine, two canals run through County Kildare, as do two rail lines and three motorways. Consequently, we must deal frequently with the National Roads Authority in addition to Waterways Ireland and Irish Rail. We undertake much liaison with local community groups, residential groups and so on, as well of course with our area committees and local authorities that is, Kildare County Council, Naas Town Council and Athy Town Council.
Under our work with the OPW, we undertake two types of scheme, namely, under the capital programme and the minor works programme. The capital programme is for works in excess of €500,000 and, to date, we have undertaken two fairly big schemes. The first is the Johnstown flood alleviation scheme and the second is the Leixlip flood alleviation scheme. Johnstown has a population of approximately 1,000 people. Funding from the OPW was approximately €2.7 million and flood protection measures have been built on three rivers, namely, the Morrell, Anagall and Hartwell rivers. The job has been successfully completed. It is more or less finished, with just bits and pieces of reinstatement measures left outstanding. The Leixlip flood alleviation scheme was a very big scheme for us, for which €3.5 million came from the OPW. The town has a population of nearly 15,000 people and the scheme comprises flood protection in an urban area on the Rye Water and Silleachan rivers. It has been completed successfully and, touch wood, we have not seen any flooding in Leixlip since.
I will turn to a couple of case studies. The Johnstown flood alleviation scheme involved the construction of flood walls, flood embankments, the upgrade of bridges and the construction of a bypass channel on the Anagall River, which has brought flood flow around the south of Johnstown village, rather than across through the village, which is what used to happen. Kildare County Council led the way in respect of planning and land acquisition, while the OPW led the way with funding and actually built the scheme with its direct labour crews. The scheme has been substantially completed. I will show members a couple of pre-construction photographs of flooding in the village, as well as an example of a widened bridge located in the centre of Johnstown village.
Our biggest scheme to date has been in Leixlip, in the north of the county. It involved the construction of flood walls, flood embankments, upgraded bridges, the upgrade of channels and of an existing outfall through Marshfield House, which is a protected structure in Leixlip just on the banks of the River Liffey. The OPW constructed highly complicated engineering works using direct labour. Again, Kildare County Council undertook the Part 8 planning and the land acquisition, while the OPW funded the scheme. The OPW constructed the scheme with its direct labour crew and the scheme has been substantially complete. The slide now on display is an example of the work. The photograph being shown to members on the right is an apartment block that has been built on Mill Lane, Leixlip, with a flood embankment and a flood wall protecting the apartment block. The photograph on display on the left is an upgrade of the Silleachan stream or river channel and Marshfield House is visible in the distance.
The second scheme, which the OPW developed approximately three years ago, is the non-coastal minor works flood alleviation scheme, which funds works up to and including €500,000 and the county council has undertaken quite a few schemes under its auspices. These include, for example, the Sallins flood alleviation scheme, which is associated with the Waterways estate in Sallins, the Butterstream flood alleviation scheme in Clane, Newtown near Kilcock, the Toni River in Celbridge, which was a complicated job in an urban area, the Ardclough flood alleviation scheme and the Confey flood alleviation scheme, which also was in an urban setting in Leixlip.
If one takes the Sallins flood alleviation scheme as a case study, there was a single flood event in the Waterways estate on 27 November 2009, in which approximately 40 houses were flooded. The flood protection measures constructed comprise the upgrading of an existing canal feeder to the north of the housing estate, as well as the construction of two 1,200 millimetre diameter culverts beneath the Cork to Dublin railway line at Sallins.
Construction of the scour protection with the Grand Canal was part funded by the OPW, Waterways Ireland, Kildare County Council and Irish Rail. That scheme was a good example of the four agencies coming together to help with engineering so the scheme was delivered in a timely fashion. Kildare County Council did the planning, procurement and land acquisition while we procured a contractor to construct the works on our behalf. That has been successfully completed and has passed the test posed by the flooding in October last year.
We can see from an aerial photograph of the estate taken on the morning of Monday, 28 November 2009 which houses were flooded. Then we have a photograph of the upgraded works to the rear of the estate. The top photograph on the left shows the houses we are protecting. The next photograph shows the scar protection for the Grand Canal, which is the outfall of the canal feeder that runs to the north of the estate.
Expenditure to date is about €10 million, three quarters of which was contributed by the OPW, with ourselves and other agencies, including Naas Town Council, Irish Rail and Waterways Ireland making up the difference. The funding level from other agencies seems low but there was a lot of assistance through supervision on the railway. Waterways Ireland helped by opening the canals. The value of work of this nature has not been quantified but there is a cost-benefit to the county of between €15 million and €20 million for the expenditure of €10 million.
The main scheme we are trying to promote at the moment is the Morell river flood alleviation scheme. That flows from Johnstown village through the townlands of Turnings and Killeenmore into the River Liffey in Straffan. The scheme has a capital value of approximately €4 million. A preliminary cost-benefit analysis has been carried out and approved by the OPW and funding has been approved to move forward to design and planning stage. The Morell river has been accelerated in the eastern CFRAMS programme and flood mapping will be completed this April. Flood mapping will actually go on public display next week. Funding for the preparation of flood mitigation measures has been approved by the OPW.
Possible future schemes under the minor works programme include the Ballymore Eustace flood alleviation scheme. The preliminary report on this has been completed and we are doing the cost-benefit analysis at the moment. Donnacomper in Celbridge is the subject of an ongoing preliminary report, as is the Duncarrig flood alleviation scheme in Leixlip.
We are involved with the OPW in the delivery of catchment flood risk and management study schemes. In Kildare there are two catchments, the eastern river basin district, which includes the River Liffey and its tributaries, and the south-eastern basin, which includes the River Barrow. The preliminary flood risk assessment has been completed and a set of maps was produced by the OPW in the middle of last year and put on public display. Those give a broad overview of where flooding may occur. The review of those maps is under way and the final version of the flood hazard mapping is due at the end of this year or early next year. The flood risk management plans are due in 2015 and early 2016.
From a planning perspective, we generally, from an insurance point of view, deliver Part 8 provisions for all of these schemes. It is in the public domain that there was a problem and we are working to reduce the risk. Appropriate assessments and environmental impact assessments are undertaken as needed. The new county development plan was published last year and that includes strengthening objectives in the main plan in the local area plans and refers to the planning system and flood risk management guidelines as published by the OPW at the end of 2009. That would lead on to formal flood risk assessments in all our plans.
From an insurance point of view, we have found in recent years that once an area has flooded, people find it difficult to get property insurance. If we have delivered a scheme in an area, we would get a call from the public in that area to say that insurance is still not available. We decided to draft a standard letter we can send to these land owners to describe the work we have done in the area and detail design standards and outline how the risk of future flooding has been reduced. The template for the letter states that advice on flood alleviation works carried out in a particular area has been requested and in response, we can confirm that flood alleviation works have been completed. The letter then outlines the work that has been undertaken and states the design standard for the work is the 1% annual exceedance probability with a further allowance of 20% for climate change. It confirms works were carried out with due care and attention by or on behalf of Kildare County Council and that the council considers the successful completion of the flood alleviation works should reduce the risk of flooding in a particular estate. The letter states the notice is for information purposes only and Kildare County Council does not accept any liability in respect of the letter.
I thank Mr. Michael Malone, Mr. Alan Dunney and Mr. Joe Boland for the presentation. I always thought Kildare was a very dry county as I passed through it on my way to Dublin from Laois. In the north of the county, however, there was clearly a serious problem. I was interested that the work was done using direct labour from the OPW, although contractors are used for heavy equipment and so on.
A group from Cork appeared before the committee and they outlined that it can be difficult to get from the report stage to the commencement of construction and I was told in reply to a parliamentary question that more than €7 million allocated for flood relief works was not spent last year by the OPW. Are any schemes awaiting funding?
Is the attenuation system in place on the N7 adequate? Waterways nearby seem to have huge deluges of water, particularly the Barrow. Substantial attenuation was allowed for at construction stage but is it still adequate at every point?
The Barrow Drainage Board receives funding from Kildare County Council and from Laois County Council. Good work has been done by that board but the council must be vigilant because this can cause substantial problems for farmers and rural residents along a line to Monasterevin and the area to the east. That area has seen substantial flooding and will require ongoing maintenance.
To carry out €1,000 of work to remove a branch that had fallen into a river and a small amount of silt that had built up behind it, one county council had to get bird studies done under the habitats directive. The bird study that had been done the previous year and which cost €4,000 was not sufficient. Are there similar delays in the Kildare County Council area because of the habitats directive? I do not expect the witnesses to savage the National Parks and Wildlife Service but this issue has been raised regularly in meetings of the joint committee by people from various areas that have been flooded.
People tell us they live in an area that is geocoded as a flood risk. We heard an example of a house located 50 ft. higher than most other houses in the area, yet the home owner was unable to obtain insurance because the house was in an area designated as high risk. It is great that works have been carried out in some areas. If local residents in Sallins, Leixlip or elsewhere in County Kildare are refused insurance and the Office of Public Works or county council subsequently carry out works in the area, does this lead to the reinstatement of their insurance?
I thank the witnesses for their attendance. As they are aware, the joint committee is doing a report on flooding and insurance. Of the various elements involved in this issue, prevention is the best. Bodies such as the Irish Insurance Federation have called for more money to be spent on flood alleviation measures. I proposed that the joint committee invite some of those who have direct responsibility for doing remediation work to appear before us as this would allow members to learn lessons about where the system works, where logjams are to be found and so on. That was my motivation for making the proposal.
The photographs provided must have been taken on a summer's day because the areas shown do not look like that at the moment. That the apartments in case study 2 were flooded up to first floor level indicates the extent of the damage that flooding has done. The good news is that despite flooding taking place since some of the works were completed, the locations in question did not flood. That is the best test of flood remediation works.
On the issue of geocoding, I have been contacted by people who have been refused insurance despite their properties having never featured on plans for flood alleviation because they have never experienced flooding. I presume the council will be willing to provide a letter to confirm this is the case. Perhaps the county managers association could consider the universal application of such a system to confirm that houses have not been flooded. In many cases, insurance companies will refuse insurance for properties located within 500 m of a water course, even where the area has not flooded in the past. This is highly unfair.
I am interested in learning a little about OPW direct labour. What size is the crew available to the office? It is useful to have this expertise available for deployment to various locations.
On the process of providing flood remediation, one of the criticisms we have heard is that it takes a long time to have remedies put in place. Are there logjams or particular points in the process that could be improved, especially in the interaction between local authorities and the Office of Public Works? Could the joint committee make recommendations in this regard? While money will always be short, it may be useful to issue some practical recommendations. Have the witnesses any advice? They may revert to us on that matter as it is the type of thing that would be useful to have in our report.
Deputy Stagg will be familiar with the area of the River Liffey near Straffan known as "the jungle". The stretch of river in question has a large amount of silt and the water course is so narrow as to make flooding inevitable. The habitats directive has a bearing on this matter. Perhaps the witnesses will talk us through if and how this problem could be remediated.
The works that were done in the case study of Johnstown were started upstream. There is, however, another problem further downstream. Ideally, one would start works downstream before moving upstream. It would be easier to provide a justification for works on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis if where they are proposed is close to a large number of houses. Does the case in Johnstown defeat the purpose a little? Could the scheme be implemented in a manner that achieves a better outcome, perhaps by taking on board a larger catchment area? I understand the flooding further downstream had not been bad until work was done upstream, although I may be wrong in that regard.
On geocoding, it is appropriate to obtain information on which areas may flood as it helps to avoid the mistakes of the past when development took place in areas prone to flooding. Unfortunately, the insurance companies or the Irish Insurance Federation appear to be using information that should be used to make good decisions in a manner that disadvantages people when they seek insurance. This was not the purpose for which the information was intended.
Mr. Alan Dunney:
The direct labour crews of the Office of Public Works built the works in Johnstown and Leixlip. Deputy Stanley asked about the timeframe from the commencement of our engagement with local residents until completion of the schemes. It probably took four years to complete the process, from the time representations were made to completion of the works. Having received representations, we carried out a preliminary design and cost-benefit analysis for a scheme, obtained approval from the Office of Public Works to proceed with planning and detailed design and then secured landowner agreements. It probably took two years to move on to the site and a further 18 to 24 months to carry out the construction programme. Construction is substantially complete, with the exception of reinstatement which can be done when the weather improves.
The Deputy pointed out that the Office of Public Works has not spent €7 million of its allocation and asked if any Kildare County Council schemes have been delayed. We have by and large obtained funding for all schemes that we have proved to be cost-beneficial. The main issue is to show a scheme is cost-beneficial.
Under the minor works programme, the cost to benefit ratio is 1:1.5, which means that if the benefit of a scheme is estimated to be €15,000, it must cost less than €10,000 to fix the problem. Under the capital works programme, the cost-benefit analysis is more complicated and involves discounting the scheme over its lifetime, which is defined as 50 years. Once this is shown to be positive, the scheme will generally be considered but it will fall into an overall national programme. In other words, it joins the queue, as it were.
The issue of hard surfaces on the motorways was raised. On the attenuation areas on the M7, while I was not involved in the design of the route, I assume the motorways have been designed in accordance with sustainable urban drainage system, SUDS, requirements. Under SUDS, the post-construction scenario should mimic the pre-construction scenario in terms of drainage. In other words, the pre-construction run-off should be mimicked by attenuating anything above the pre-construction, if members understand what I mean. That is the idea behind the attenuation basins.
Regarding the Barrow Drainage Board and Monasterevin, I am still on the Barrow Drainage Board. We did some work in this area last year and we must do some more work this year. We have to hit the main river from Dunrally Bridge towards Athy.
That is on this year's programme. As members probably know, we have a three year programme which we work through as best we can, given the windows allowed.
That leads to the next issue, namely, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Inland Fisheries Ireland. Every three years the Barrow drainage board engages an environmental consultant to prepare a Natura impact statement, as required under the habitats directive. That identifies areas along the river where certain species live and the mitigation works we have to do to clean the river where the species in question are located, whether these be otter, lamprey, crayfish, or whatever. There are windows within the calendar during which we can do work. For example, if we cut trees along the River Barrow, we have to finish that by the end of February. If we want to put a bucket into the river, we can only do so between May and September, and with the agreement of Inland Fisheries Ireland. Some rivers are much more sensitive than others. For example, the Morrell river in north Kildare is very sensitive in the view of Inland Fisheries Ireland because it contains a great deal of salmon and trout.
I am not sure where the question on geocoding is coming from but the OPW published a set of maps under the CFRAM programme, perhaps 12 months ago, which offered an overview of where flooding might happen in the country. As part of the CFRAM programme there was public consultation, and results were sent out under the preliminary flood risk assessment. Since then, surveyors and modellers have been engaged to develop site-specific flood mapping for different areas. For example, in the Liffey catchment of the eastern CFRAM scheme a number of areas were set aside for further assessment, as AFAs. Each of those would have detailed surveying and modelling done, and I presume these would supersede the preliminary flood risk assessment, PFRA, maps. They are due for publication in 2013. Deputy Murphy asked about that.
I am not sure of the size of the OPW direct labour crews. In Johnstown and Leixlip there were probably 15 to 20 men, a foreman and a couple of engineers. They do excellent, well-finished work.
As to the process, probably the best thing we do is to engage early. We would never send in a cold application for funding but would always meet the regional engineering staff in Trim for site meetings where we go through what the scheme involves, how much it will cost, and what benefit we believe we will get from it. We have all that ground work done before we submit a formal application. When the planning process and procurement begin, there are statutory hurdles that must be jumped, and I am not sure what can be done about that.
I refer again to the habitats directive. Does the River Barrow example answer the question? There are certain windows when we can go in and do work. The Liffey is classed as a more sensitive river than the Barrow, which is engineered and covered by the Barrow Drainage Act. It is interesting that the Deputy mentioned the area downstream of Johnstown because we have been successful in getting that area accelerated under the CFRAM programme. The OPW is about to deliver flood mapping of that area and we will brief the local councillors on it next Tuesday, after which there will be public consultation, a fortnight from Thursday, I believe. In terms of cost-benefit analysis, it is a fairly broad area, not merely concentrated in Killymore and Turnings. Some three or four river areas are involved - Morrell, Painestown, Slane and Kill - which form the area downstream of the N7.
There was another point, arising from letters I received, about areas where there is no experience of flooding. Perhaps that issue could be taken up by the County and City Managers Association, although I do not know if that is possible.
Mr. Michael Malone:
When the CFRAM studies are complete, the surveys may be more accurate than what exists currently. As Mr. Dunney noted, they will supersede what has existed, which might bring about some clarification. If it does not, the Deputy can take it the County and City Managers Association, CCMA, will help in the process to try to get standardisation throughout the country. That is something I will raise with the association.
I thank the delegates for attending; they are very welcome. I compliment them on the Sallins project and the linkage between all agencies. A model such as that could be replicated elsewhere and should involve, for example, Waterways Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland, the relevant county council, the OPW and all the necessary bodies involved. A model of that type which involves all the agencies might come about through the County and City Managers Association. It should be promoted.
I have some queries, some of which came to me from people trying to get insurance in places where there has not been any history of flooding. Deputy Murphy raised the same issue. Have there been any discussions at county manager level with insurance companies on funding? Both they and the communities involved would benefit if non-flooding areas were considered. There could be a levy and insurance companies could be involved in the payment of some such schemes because there is only a finite sum of money coming from Government in this regard.
Many of the contracts with the OPW involve fairly large sums of money. Do these have to go through e-tenders? How are they decided, given that the OPW subcontracts out much of the work? Are preferred contractors used?
My last query concerns planning and those schemes that have been successful. Reference was made to Leixlip, Johnstown and Sallins. There is a related impact on future planning, zonings and developments. Is that taken into consideration when a cost-benefit analysis is being done?
Deputy Murphy made a point about the silting of the main channel of the River Liffey, which provides drainage for the entire county, especially the north. That is a very real issue because the height of the river is affected at times of high water and the backup into the drainage streams is also adversely affected. I spoke at one time - I am not sure whether to Mr. Dunney or to another of the engineers - about the possibility of Venturi turning of the drains as they meet the main flow to draw them out, even if the level was higher. That would be very effective, and certainly would be cost-effective because it would cost very little but would save a lot.
The actual silting of the river is a serious matter. It is very good for angling, in which I have a certain interest, but from the point of view of drainage it is bad. Trees fall across the river and mushrooms grow on them before they eventually disappear, perhaps in a bigger flood.
Some of them have been there for ten or 15 years, right across the main channel of the river. There is an inherent flaw in draining all of the main streams into the channel to alleviate flooding but not dealing with the main channel itself. There is a lot to be said about starting at the bottom and moving upstream because one knows what one is dealing with. When one starts at the top, one might be causing flooding further downstream in areas that were not flooded.
The contour mapping that is being carried out by some engineering companies is being taken up by the insurance companies and causing difficulties. It gives a very false picture because there are areas that are thoroughly well drained but which might have a low contour point. Such areas are deemed by the contour mapping to be flood plains or areas not suitable for building on. We need something from the official authorities to counter those maps on behalf of the citizens who are adversely affected. Some form of letter should issue about specific areas that may have a low contour but which would not necessarily be prone to flooding. Perhaps the council could indicate that it has no plans to alleviate flooding in such areas because they are not deemed to be at risk.
Mr. Michael Malone:
Deputy Lawlor raised the possibility that a levy on insurance companies might form part of the long-term solution. If I understood the Deputy correctly, he suggested that this might be something for the County and City Managers Association, CCMA, to pursue. In that context, when the committee has finished its study of this issue and formed a view on it, I would ask that it write to us formally and at that point we might be able to comment further or assist. That would be a useful exercise.
The e-tendering process is the same for drainage as for any other works. The limits are set down and we have to work within them, with no way around those limits. I accept the point that e-tendering and procurement generally can take a long time and perhaps there are better ways of doing things. However, as a general rule, the size of the contract will dictate whether one has to go through an e-tendering process and I do not think there is any way around that.
Mr. Michael Malone:
There would not be a tender involved if the OPW was doing the work directly but that would be based on the assumption that the OPW had the capacity to do the work. If a work programme was very large, however, the OPW would have to get outside assistance. I will ask Mr. Dunney to comment on that.
Mr. Alan Dunney:
I have an example of one scheme where the OPW did all of the structures and embankment work with its own labour crews and machinery but there was a very substantial cut across land involved and the OPW felt that it did not have the machinery necessary to undertake that part of the scheme. It procured a subcontractor to do that element of the work.
Mr. Alan Dunney:
That would depend on the value of the contract. I cannot quite remember the details of that particular scheme and whether the value was below the threshold. If the value is sub-threshold, then there is no requirement for an e-tender. Depending on the value of the contract, the OPW could get three prices, go through the e-tendering process or even have to go through the OJ - the Official Journal of the European Union.
Mr. Michael Malone:
It is down to value and capacity within the OPW. The OPW has to make a judgment on whether it can do the work itself and if it can, it certainly speeds things up.
Members raised the issue of the impact on future planning. We will have to await the completion of the two catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, studies being conducted in Kildare because they will be the recognised model and standard for addressing the issue of flooding and the identification of potentially risky locations. We will have to take those studies on board in the context of all future development plans. The studies will enable us to identify the affected areas and to support whatever works are necessary in our development plans.
Mr. Dunney will deal with the issue of silting at Straffan. I accept Deputy Stagg's point that if works cause silting, that can have a knock-on effect for drainage. If the silting levels are increased, effective drainage off the land is made more difficult, causing problems further upstream. Contour mapping is essentially the same issue as geocoding, to which we have already referred and hopefully, the CFRAMs will bring some clarity in that regard.
Mr. Alan Dunney:
There are three rivers running through Kildare - the Blackwater-Boyne, the Barrow and the Liffey. There is a drainage board for the Barrow, established under statute by the Barrow Drainage Act. The Blackwater is part of the Boyne drainage district maintained by the OPW. The Liffey, however, is not part of any drainage district. The river is managed by the ESB, in terms of the dams. There is a view that where a river is not part of a drainage district, the responsibility lies with the riparian landowner but that is not easy to determine on the River Liffey.
Mr. Joe Boland:
The River Liffey is different to other rivers and has a specific legislative code associated with it by virtue of the involvement of the ESB and the extraction of water for the generation of electricity. There is a specific Act relating to the River Liffey, namely, the Liffey Reservoir Act of 1936.
Just before we conclude, I wish to return to something Mr. Dunney said that I found amazing. He said that from the time representations are made, it takes four years, with approximately two years of planning and then 18 months to two years before completion of works. I wonder about the four-year estimate because Mr. Malone would be aware of a flooding problem which has existed in Templemore since at least the 1960s, if not earlier. Successive Ministers, including the current one, and the OPW have been notified about it, representations have been made about it, schemes have been discussed but there has been no delivery. Is it the case that a response is conditional on the size of the population affected and whether an area is close to Dublin as opposed to in the heart of the country? A scheme has been promised by the OPW for a number of years but has yet to even start.
Mr. Michael Malone:
While we are reluctant to comment on any schemes other than our own, a lot of the decisions on schemes revolve around the issues of scale, complexity and cost. Some schemes can be very costly and the more costly they are, the more difficult it is to secure funding for them. We have undertaken a range of schemes ourselves, some of which are minor and some of which are major. When we set up the dedicated team within Kildare County Council we were in a position to draw up schemes and to ensure that any cost-benefit analysis would support them. That went a long way in terms of enabling us to make our case to the OPW. When plans are being prepared, one must ensure that one ticks all the boxes in order to secure funding.
Mr. Michael Malone:
I do not know, to be honest, which is why I am reluctant to comment. All I can do is give the committee an idea of how we have managed our schemes.
As I said at the start, lest anyone think there is a magic bullet to this, they all differ in terms of their complexities. However, it is very important to have an interagency approach. We brought all the stakeholders on board and that is how we worked well. Mr. Dunney has been instrumental in ensuring that we got various stakeholders on board, including communities, which is very important.
We have dealt mainly with the macro aspect. On the micro end of it, could more be done at local level? For example in my constituency, joint drainage boards and drainage committees were either abandoned or not financed adequately. Is that having an effect? Many minor works could help alleviate floods.
Mr. Michael Malone:
As with local authorities, it is down to resources. The CFRAM programme is a very positive development, as it will give a standard overview of the various catchments. That will be a good exercise and Mr. Dunney might comment on how he envisages that emerging. CFRAM studies will inform national policy and national funding on some of this work.
Mr. Alan Dunney:
It is being done at the moment by OPW, which is the lead agency in the CFRAM programme. Each local authority in an area would be represented on the steering group for that particular CFRAM study. We sit on the steering group for south east and east, covering the Barrow and the Liffey and all their tributaries. The Liffey one is most important to us because the north of County Kildare is more badly affected.
Would that have been helped by the river being a managed river and a major water source at Poulaphouca and Leixlip? There is an ongoing dialogue with the local authorities along the way. I imagine that the ESB might not be as involved in other waterways, although it has been involved on the Shannon and its involvement in Cork has been very prominent.
Mr. Alan Dunney:
We get weekly updates from ESB on the volumes of water it is releasing through the dams and information on whether the levels of water in the reservoirs are rising or dropping rapidly or slowly. If there is inclement weather we might get daily or even more frequent updates. We would have a fair idea in the county as to how long it would take. If one were to drop a bucket of water into the River Liffey at Ballymore Eustace, for example, we would have a fair idea that it could take 12 or 14 hours to get to Celbridge which allows us to try to get ahead of it.