Thursday, 9 October 2014
Drainage Schemes Status
13. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his Department has recommenced work on drainage schemes and other such works, such as that in the Claregalway area of County Galway, following the legal advice concerning the interpretation of SI 469 of 2012 which was necessitated by EU environmental directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38170/14]
The question relates to the River Clare drainage scheme, the review of the environmental impact statement and whether the Office of Public Works or the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is progressing the tendering for the review as required under legislation.
I thank Deputy Kyne for asking this question and giving me an opportunity to update him and the House on the position on the Claregalway scheme.
SI 469 and SI 470 of 2012 give effect in Irish law to EU Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. As the consent authority for flood alleviation schemes under section 7 of the Arterial Drainage Acts 1945 to 1995, the regulations require my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, to carry out an environmental impact assessment of drainage or flood relief schemes prior to confirmation or approval of the proposed schemes, publicise his decision to confirm or refuse to confirm a proposed drainage scheme, inform the Commissioners and the public of the decision, provide for a process for appeal or review of the decision, and inform the public of this process.
The Clare river or Claregalway drainage scheme was submitted to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for ministerial confirmation on 2 November 2013. In accordance with normal procedure, the scheme documentation submitted to the Department included an environmental impact statement, which is a consultant's report of the environmental impacts of the works and the OPW's proposals to mitigate these impacts as far as possible. The Claregalway scheme is the first flood relief scheme submitted for confirmation following the coming into effect of the 2012 regulations and, understandably, the Department needed to consider fully the implications for the confirmation process of the new regulations. Consultations took place with the Attorney General's office to get clarification on how the new regulations should be interpreted and implemented in the context of the confirmation process for drainage schemes. Based on advice received from the Attorney General's office, the Department is in the process of engaging experts to carry out an independent review as part of the assessment of the environmental impact statement of the Claregalway scheme submitted by the OPW. The tender process is nearing completion and the Department expects to be in a position to place a contract shortly.
Deputy Kyne will understand that the scheme can only be confirmed pending the outcome of the expert's review and the conclusion of the required public notification process. I am confident, however, that the proposed works will be found to be environmentally acceptable and the scheme can be confirmed in due course by the Minister and proceed without too much further delay. I assure the House that I and the OPW remain committed to ensuring the scheme will be completed as soon as possible. I assure Deputy Kyne that the OPW has provided for the cost of the works in its profiles of capital expenditure to 2016.
I thank the Minister of State for his reply and thank him for his engagement on this issue over the summer when I have been consulting him. It is, as he stated, the first flood relief scheme to go through this new process and there have been a few teething problems. This scheme was announced by the Minister of State's predecessor in February last in good faith and there was an expectation that work was to start in the summer. It is regrettable the delay has taken place. I acknowledge that work is progressing in terms of the tendering process within the Department and I thank the Minister of State for that. I am sure he will keep a good eye on that and ensure that process continues.
There is a view locally that this is bureaucracy gone mad in that the OPW prepared this review of the environmental reports and these have to be reviewed by the Department, but I appreciate the Minister of State had no choice in this. It is a legislative matter.
The Minister of State confirmed there is no issue. There is always speculation when there is a delay that the reason behind the delay is that there is a funding shortage. Can Minister of State confirm that this is fully part of the programme, there is no delay and he is confident that works will go ahead as soon as possible?
I am happy to confirm that there is no funding issue and that the project is included in the capital expenditure of the OPW to 2016.
I wish to provide Deputy Kyne with some information. The total budget for the scheme, when VAT and future cost fluctuations are taken into account, is €7.1 million. Once we have this scheme confirmed, we will be in a position to commence works fairly quickly because these works will be carried out by our direct labour force which will reduce any delays that could result were we to put it out to contract. Works have already been carried out in this area. Remedial works, including the construction of a flood eye at Claregalway bridge and the construction of a new bridge at Crusheeny.
I asked my officials in the OPW, considering the importance of this in the locality and the time delay that could not be avoided, to look at what interim measures can be undertaken to provide some flood relief. The OPW has employed two long-reach machines to remove a build-up of silt from the bends of the channel on both banks of the Clare river from Lough Corrib and they are now working upstream towards Claregalway.
I will continue to keep in touch with Deputy Kyne on this. I hope this is a scheme we can have confirmed as quickly as possible.