Wednesday, 18 May 2005
I wish to refer to two separate floods in Dublin, one on 1 February 2002 and the other some two years later. On both occasions, the East Wall, the North Strand, Ballybough, Botanic Avenue and the area around St. Luke's in Drumcondra were badly flooded. The flooding was of such a degree that boats were needed in the East Wall area.
As boats were also needed in the neighbouring constituency of Deputy Callely, I am sure he will support my motion. Thousands of people were affected by the flooding. We all saw the remarkable photograph of the Taoiseach in his wellies outside St. Luke's, directing the activities to help the good citizens of the north side of Dublin in their hour of need.
No, I was not. I did my bit. I was filling sand bags at the local depot in Ballybough, helping local residents when the local authority left them a little short of sand bags. In fact, I was out virtually the whole night working to alleviate the flooding.
The flooding was severe. Homes were invaded by water and many people were imprisoned in their homes as the water flooded in. The flooding was very sudden, particularly in the area of Ossory Road where the water came from the Royal Canal, and it caught many residents unawares.
Various surveys have suggested that, statistically, this type of flooding should not happen more than once every 50 or 100 years. However, we have already had two similar occasions of flooding in the space of two years. There is no guarantee that it will not happen again within another couple of years. Therefore, it is particularly important that preventative measures are put in place.
Dublin City Council and the Office of Public Works are working together in this regard. I understand there was a sharing of costs between them with, I presume, the lion's share of the cost being taken by the OPW. Perhaps the Minister would enlighten us on the cost of the work that must be done.
Can the Minister clarify the flood prevention measures that have already taken place? What level of dredging has occurred? What can be done about the flood plains that previously took away the surplus water which has now begun to flood through tight channels into Dublin causing flooding?
The East Wall road is very low, about two feet high, and this is a source of grievance for those living the area. People feel that flooding similar to that of the 1950s might occur if there is a high tide and the Tolka floods. There is also a danger of flooding to the Royal Canal from the sea and high tide as has happened before. What measures are being taken to alleviate the possibility of flooding occurring again?
Householders are experiencing real problems in obtaining insurance, in particular from Hibernian and Cornmarket brokers. If somebody sells their home, the newcomers will be unable to get insurance. The insurance is not being carried on because of the fear of future flooding and premia are being raised. It is one thing not to have flooding but quite another to have the fear of flooding impact in an adverse financial manner when people seek insurance at a decent rate. It is important that measures be put in place and that the Minister does something to ensure that insurance companies do not increase rates on the one hand and refuse to insure on the other.
I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. The last major flood in Dublin occurred in November 2002 when there was substantial flooding from the Glasnevin and Drumcondra area of the city to the Clonee area in County Meath as a result of the Tolka river breaking its banks. Analysis has shown that this flood exceeded the scale of any previous flood on record in the catchment area. There was widespread flooding on Dublin's north side from Glasnevin to Ballybough. Since that flooding, the Office of Public Works, in co-operation with Dublin City Council and Fingal and Meath county councils, has implemented flood alleviation measures as recommended in the River Tolka flooding study that was under way at the time of the 2002 flood.
Most of these works have been constructed by the OPW's direct labour force as part of a scheme which, when completed, will provide protection against a flood event with a design return period of 100 years or, to put it another way, a 1% probability of occurring in any year. The OPW and Dublin City Council have pursued a policy of completing work in areas at highest risk of flooding. The works undertaken to date cover an area from Glasnevin Bridge to Luke Kelly Bridge in Ballybough and include provision of new walls and embankments on Botanic Avenue, provision of embankments at Griffith Avenue, replacement of Woodville Road footbridge, provision of walls downstream of Woodville Road footbridge to Drumcondra Bridge, provision of walls and embankments at Tolka Park Cottages, raising of the wall from Drumcondra Bridge to Tolka Park, protection works at the corner of Tolka Park, provision of walls and embankments from Tolka Park to Distillery Weir, widening of the bank on Clonliffe College grounds, the removal of Distillery Weir, the repair of scour damage at 112 to 114 Tolka Road, provision of new walls downstream of Distillery Road Bridge on the northern bank, and general channel maintenance.
These works are now mostly completed. There are further works which include the replacement of Distillery Road Bridge and the widening of some parts of the river around the bridge. Arrangements for the execution of these works have been the subject of negotiations between the city council and property owners and developers undertaking a development in that area. These negotiations are being finalised and works are expected to proceed in the immediate future. It is also intended to install a number of pumping stations to deal with any risk from storm water behind the defences during flood events.
With regard to the Royal Canal, flooding in the East Wall area has occurred as a result of tidal influences. The lower reaches of the canal are tidal and at times of exceptionally high tides in the River Liffey, the canal banks have been overtopped. Dublin City Council is constructing a cofferdam at the confluence of the Royal Canal and the River Liffey and this should help to alleviate the problem.
Flooding in this area is one of the many issues addressed in the report of the Dublin coastal flooding protection project which was commissioned by Dublin City Council and Fingal Country Council in association with the OPW and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. It set out to examine the causes and impacts of flooding from Portmarnock to Booterstown and to identify appropriate measures to deal with the flood risk in the area. The report has been received by the OPW in recent weeks. It is a very detailed document and is being examined. It recommends a number of actions, including early flood warning systems and the development of a number of flood defence schemes. The construction costs of the proposals are estimated between €64 million and €95 million.
As the report is large and complex, it will take time to examine. Once this is done, the OPW will meet city council officials and other relevant bodies to discuss the proposals with a view to developing a priority list of measures which could be undertaken in coming years. Any funding which may be required from the OPW will be considered at that stage in the context of the OPW's annual budget for flood relief projects, the large number of flood alleviation projects and non-structural measures being advanced by the OPW and the urgency attached to the various measures recommended in the report.
Regulation of the insurance industry does not fall within my remit and I am not in a position to respond to that element of the Deputy's matter on the Adjournment. However, my officials have had discussions with the Insurance Industry Federation on other matters and it was indicated that insurance companies would take account of the existence of improved flood defences where relief schemes have been undertaken. The OPW is considering the most appropriate way to make this information available to the insurance industry and other interested parties.