Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 5 March 2024

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

Fish Migration and Barriers to Migration: Discussion (Resumed)

Mr. Jim Casey:

I will first deal with the Chair’s questions on the broader remit of the OPW and nature-based solutions. As the Chair well knows, the OPW is the lead agency for flood risk management. Much of the work we do focuses on the mitigation of flood risk. However, we are obliged to achieve solutions to flood risk problems in conjunction with, and having regard to, the regulatory framework, all of the environmental legislation and everything else I mentioned in my opening statement. When we look to find solutions to flood problems, they must be environmentally sensitive. Where there is potential harm to the environment, we have to incorporate what are usually strict measures to mitigate the impact.

In recent years, we have been doing a great deal of work in respect of nature-based solutions. Such solutions work by slowing down the flow of water to reduce flood risks downstream. They can provide multiple additional benefits for a range of objectives, including water quality, biodiversity and public amenity. We are conscious of the value of nature-based solutions. While pilot and demonstration projects have shown that such solutions can reduce the risk from more frequent low-intensity floods, these benefits are understood to reduce for the more extreme floods, such as one-in-100-year floods. Unfortunately, nature-based solutions have not been widely implemented to date, but the OPW is active in pursuing this approach for future applications. Some of our work in this area includes the co-funding of research, which will conclude shortly, to examine the effectiveness of nature-based measures on agricultural lands. This is being done under the SloWaters research project. The OPW has provided funding to the Inishowen Rivers Trust in Donegal to investigate and implement such measures to reduce flood risk and provide co-benefits. All of our capital flood relief schemes involve a specific requirement to assess the potential for the use of nature-based solutions. Other delivery mechanisms are also being developed. The OPW supports other public agencies and organisations in the development of their nature-based policies and schemes, identifying areas for mutual co-operation. With the EPA, the OPW is co-chairing the working group on nature-based solutions for catchment management. Nature-based solutions are becoming an increasing focus of our work, but an ongoing challenge is the fact that such solutions on their own will not necessarily achieve the level of mitigation we require for more extreme events. The difficulty here is that those events are likely to get more extreme.

Regarding the ADA, I might ask my colleague-----