Thursday, 11 October 2012
Topical Issue Debate
Flood Prevention Measures
I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for allowing me to raise this issue and the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, for dealing with it. The latter has shown an excellent commitment to flood prevention measures generally and has responded to all of the issues I have raised in this regard in the House. I am obliged, however, to raise the situation of the residents of Maryfield Crescent in Artane, which was flooded in the summers of 2008 and 2009 and again in October 2011. On rainy days such as today, the residents become worried that they will endure further flooding.
Dublin City Council has indicated that before any flood relief measures can be taken in the area, there must be a hydraulic analysis of the Naniken river. The problem, however, is that the council claims it does not have the €50,000 required to undertake that analysis. When I inquired recently as to whether the Office of Public Works might provide the council with the funding it needs to proceed, I was told that such an analysis is not eligible under the minor works scheme. The situation, therefore, is that the council cannot proceed with the hydraulic analysis which is a prerequisite to the implementation of any potential flood relief measures. The expenditure involved, at €50,000, is very little in the overall scheme of things but could have a huge impact for these families. Some of them have no home insurance and, as such, their properties are effectively worthless. Any potential buyer of a house in Maryfield Crescent would likewise be ineligible for home insurance and would not, therefore, obtain a mortgage. In other words, the residents are locked into their current homes for the foreseeable future.
Will the Minister of State indicate whether the OPW will provide the necessary funding to Dublin City Council to carry out the required hydraulic analysis of the Naniken river? Without that analysis, the council cannot identify a long-term strategy for the alleviation of flood risks in the estate and the residents will remain in a no-man's land. I acknowledge that significant flood relief work is ongoing in other parts of the country and in other areas in my constituency, including the Clanmoyle Road in Donnycarney. In the case of Maryfield Crescent, however, no remedial process can commence until the hydraulic analysis is carried out, after which the council would be in a position to identify a way forward. As I said, an outlay of only €50,000 might be the first step in making life easier for the residents.
Although I am loath to raise this issue in Dáil Éireann, I have little choice in the matter since Dublin City Council has washed its hands of it. It is probably not a matter for this House, but I am obliged to take this opportunity to seek the Minister of State's assistance in moving towards a solution.
The Deputy should not apologise for raising this matter in the House as he is quite entitled to do. I understand his frustration at the bureaucracy he has encountered both from our side and from Dublin City Council. He is absolutely within his rights as a Member of this House to highlight the matter publicly.
The Naniken river runs underground for most of its length through the built-up suburbs of north Dublin, including Artane. As it is conveyed by way of a culvert for a substantial part of its entire length, it forms an integral part of the urban storm drainage system and is monitored and managed as such by Dublin City Council. The only open section runs through St. Anne's Park. Responsibility for the design, construction, maintenance and upkeep of drainage infrastructure rests with the relevant local authority in the first instance and with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government as the funding body for investment in that infrastructure. The Office of Public Works does not have a role or function in this area.
In order to ascertain why the drainage system in the area is not performing as it should, Dublin City Council must undertake a hydraulic analysis of the culverted river. Regardless of the cost involved, it does not fall within the remit of the OPW to take the lead in or fund such a study. That is a matter for the council. As I said, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government provides funding to local authorities to undertake such works. In this instance, Dublin City Council has indicated that it has insufficient funding to carry out the required analysis. The issue for the OPW is that getting involved in this project would set a precedent for every other drainage scheme in the country. Moreover, the OPW can only take on a project where it has a mandate to do so. The minor works scheme is operated in accordance with a transparent model whereby applications from local authorities are assessed on the basis of a cost analysis. Were the office to take on a project outside of that model, it would set a precedent for every other local authority to seek funds. That is a difficulty.
I am acutely aware that it is of little interest to the residents of Maryfield Crescent which arm of the State carries out or funds the study. Nonetheless, it is important that clear lines of responsibility are maintained and that Dublin City Council takes the lead in carrying out the necessary work to address the drainage problems and associated flooding in the Artane area. I am advised, based on information provided by the council on the extent of its culverted length, that the Naniken river will not be included in the eastern catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, study being undertaken by RPS consultants. It was deemed that the upper reaches of the river are piped to such a degree that it is effectively part of the storm drainage network, the assessment of which is outside the OPW's remit. Moreover, the OPW has concluded that the lower open reach through St. Anne's Park does not pose a risk of such scale as to warrant inclusion in the study.
I understand the residents of Maryfield Crescent met with engineers from Dublin City Council in recent weeks. It was agreed at that meeting, which was attended by Deputy Ó Ríordáin, that a local flood forum is to be formed in the area. This will consider ways in which individuals can develop their resilience to floods and protect their own properties by way of devices such as individual flood gates, non-return valves and so on. This is an excellent initiative which I would like to see replicated in other parts of our main cities and towns and, indeed, within rural communities. Everyone has a role to play in minimising the impact of flooding. The State, for its part, through the OPW and the local authorities, is making huge efforts to deal with the main flooding problems throughout the country.
The OPW, in association with Dublin City Council, has overseen significant flood relief projects in Dublin, including the completed River Tolka flood relief scheme and the ongoing works on the River Dodder. In addition, the OPW has approved a total of €1.854 million under the minor works scheme for the city and greater Dublin area. Under its major capital works programme, meanwhile, the OPW has nine major flood relief schemes at construction stage. It is expected that another four schemes will commence construction before the end of 2013, subject to completion of procurement and other preparatory formalities and availability of funding. A further 11 schemes are at various stages of design and planning. In addition, under the minor works and coastal protection scheme, the OPW provides funding to local authorities for smaller-scale, more localised mitigation measures in their areas.
I thank the Minister of State for his reply and his acknowledgement of my frustration and that of the residents in question. Will he give a commitment that the OPW will liaise with Dublin City Council officials in order to move the situation forward? I am sure he will agree that the current stalemate is unacceptable. Every heavy rain warning is a cause of great anxiety for the residents of Maryfield Crescent.
I assure the Deputy that I will organise a meeting between the Dublin City Council engineers and officials from the OPW to see whether a more creative solution can be found. I will attend this meeting myself and will invite the Deputy to join me. Just as the OPW is governed by its mandate, the council is equally governed by the mandate it receives from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Nevertheless, I will arrange a meeting in the next two weeks to bring all the parties together. I give the Deputy my word on this.