Thursday, 10 November 2005
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter. Since I entered public life many years ago one of the main issues taken up by me and by practically all public representatives in my constituency and particularly in Kilkenny is the need to drain the River Nore or to provide solutions to the flooding problems. It would have been foolish for any aspiring candidate for public office not to include such an objective in his or her campaign leaflets. I can remember at the young age of ten the flood that hit Kilkenny in March 1947. At that time my grandparents were isolated in their house with the water rising to a level of 6 ft. or 7 ft. It was a miracle that no lives were lost at that time.
There have been many severe floods in the Nore and its tributary the Breagagh. These occur annually and sometimes many times per year. With the decision to carry out the work on the Nore several years ago came a sense of confidence and pride. The work cost €48 million. I never had a problem with such an amount of money for this very essential work. I would fully support whatever it took to do the job and say it was well worth the money. Naturally I have not been in Kilkenny in recent days as I have been here in the House. When I read this morning's Irish Independent with a screaming headline "Anti-flood scheme failed", I was aghast. It mentioned that parts of the city were flooded. It is important to assure the public that this scheme has been successful and will be successful.
My main purpose for raising this matter on the Adjournment was to give the Minister of State the opportunity to state that in the House. When I read the news this morning I did not know what to think. I hope the Minister of State can give the assurance to allow people to view this scheme with confidence and pride. Excellent work was carried out and I have no problem with the cost. If that was what it took to do the job, every penny was justified.
I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I am glad to have the opportunity to put on the record the facts regarding flooding in Kilkenny. While I understand from where the Deputy got his information the facts are quite different to the headline in today's Irish Independent. We have seen other lurid headlines and photographs in that newspaper regarding the difficulty for fish with the flood relief scheme, which were also grossly exaggerated.
The Kilkenny flood relief scheme referred to in the motion is functioning perfectly to prevent flooding of homes and businesses in the city. The scheme has not failed and the flooding which occurred in recent days is not due to any breach, leak or other failure of the scheme. Flooding took place in the Canal Walk area and the Waterbarracks area. As both areas are designated flood plains they can be expected to flood periodically, but this flooding is not expected to cause significant damage or disruption. In this case the flooding in the Canal Walk area occurred when water from the canal overflowed on to Canal Walk. Contrary to the report in today's Irish Independent, the river did not "burst its banks". Water had backed up in the canal due to a temporary culvert constructed by the contractor for the scheme to facilitate his access to the works. The culvert in question was removed yesterday.
The flooding on the football pitch in the Waterbarracks area commenced last week, on Wednesday, 2 November 2005. It has been suggested that an accumulation of debris at the trash rack on the River Breagagh contributed to the flooding, but this is not the case. The trash rack is inspected regularly by OPW staff who have confirmed that it was clear of debris on 2 November. The flooding was caused by an increase in flood waters. This brought an increase in debris and rubbish with it. The trash rack was again cleaned by OPW on Tuesday last, as soon as it was safely accessible. OPW staff have confirmed that when cleaning the rack, as well as removing normal river debris such as branches of trees etc. they also removed bags of clothes, carpets and bags of domestic rubbish from the river. The staff concerned have pointed out that this is a regular occurrence.
The purpose of the flood relief scheme is to protect homes and businesses affected by flooding and in this it is an out and out success. The scheme sought to maintain the natural flood plains where possible. The areas retained as flood plains are those where the impact on homes and businesses is at a minimum, areas like Canal Walk and the football pitch at the Waterbarracks. The retention of these areas as flood plains was part of the exhibited flood relief scheme and was fully approved by the local authority.