Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Flood Risk Management

11:10 am

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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113. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress that has been made in relation to flood risk management at Annagassan and Termonfeckin in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2148/23]

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I am asking for an update on flood risk management at Annagassan and Termonfeckin in County Louth. During the catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, process there was no economically viable project. The Office of Public Works, OPW, was looking at a review of risk then, a scheme viability review, SVR. I am just wondering where that is. If possible, I would also like to get an update on the overall CFRAM situation as regards County Louth.

Photo of Patrick O'DonovanPatrick O'Donovan (Limerick County, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I am delighted to be back as Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW. The Deputy has previously raised the issues at Annagassan and Termonfeckin.

The CFRAM programme was the largest ever flood risk study carried out in the State and covered 300 areas believed to be at significant flood risk. The programme culminated with the launch on 3 May 2018 of 29 flood risk management plans which proposed 118 different projects. A small number of additional schemes were found to be technically feasible but not economically viable at the time, with a benefit-cost ratio of less than one, based on the strategic level of assessment of the CFRAM studies. To better inform a decision on progressing schemes in these communities, measures were included in the flood risk management plans to undertake a review of the schemes' viability, called the scheme viability review, SVR. The OPW has put in place a process for undertaking these SVRs to determine whether a potential scheme should be taken forward to the full flood project stage. It should be noted it is neither the purpose nor the objective of the SVR to develop and design a scheme in preparation for planning. That is a separate process.

Annagassan and Termonfeckin were two such areas that fell into this category and a review of the flood risk in these communities and the likely associated costs and benefits is currently being undertaken. I can confirm that the Termonfeckin SVR was commenced by the OPW last year and technical assessment of the area is ongoing. The scheme viability report for this area is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2023. Annagassan forms part of a group of SVRs being undertaken by consultants Arup, following a competitive tendering process late last year. The project commencement meeting was held on 9 January 2023 and site visits are scheduled for early February. A scheme viability report for Annagassan is expected by the end of the year. The scheme viability process for these communities involves ongoing liaison with Louth County Council. Once the outcome of the SVRs is known, the OPW will discuss the results with Louth County Council. I would like assure the Deputy and indeed all the Deputies from County Louth that every effort is being made to progress the SVRs in County Louth and indeed across the country in the quickest possible timeframe.

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I appreciate the Minister of State's answer. What we are looking at in respect of Termonfeckin is that the report is due at the end of quarter 1 of this year, and we are talking about the end of the year for the report on Annagassan. We all accept the issues that have been brought about by climate change in the last while. We all know the dangers we face in respect of flood risk. It is an absolute necessity that we can protect our communities. I also accept that once the viability review report is done, there is another process in respect of the design of the project. We just need it all to happen as soon as possible given the circumstances we are in. If possible, could we get an overall update on CFRAM in County Louth, accepting the absolute necessity of those works that are planned for Dundalk, Blackrock, Drogheda, Carlingford, Greenore, Baltray and Ardee, securing all those communities in County Louth?

Photo of Patrick O'DonovanPatrick O'Donovan (Limerick County, Fine Gael)
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I think a Deputy has another question down later on this matter. If there is any information I cannot provide today, I will certainly come back to the Deputy in writing. He raises an important issue. We had statements yesterday on climate change. I listened to most of it in my own office. In fairness, some Deputies are very supportive of the work we are trying to do in the OPW around raising the issue of climate adaptation. As I have constantly said, if we all reduce our emissions to zero tomorrow morning, the issue of water levels rising in counties Louth, Galway, Limerick and Cork is going to continue. The single biggest physical threat to communities' viability and our ability to sustain communities in this country is from the sea. We need to address it with a greater sense of urgency and I would say we need to address it with a greater sense of political urgency. All parties and groups here have an obligation to support what we are trying to do and raise this to a different level. At the moment, talking about all of the electric cars and all the emissions in the world will not protect the communities the Deputy has referred to nor those Deputy Mairéad Farrell has referred to further down the questions list.

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I accept that. We are in an incredibly precarious situation and we need to make sure all is done in respect of protecting our communities from flood risk and many other risks that are ahead of us in a changing world. As regards Annagassan and Termonfeckin, we need those processes to conclude within the timeline the Minister of State has spoken about and we must then ensure the other processes are in play. The Minister of State has been quite vociferous in public on planning issues that have impacted on projects like this. We are all aware of the AG review and other pieces of work that are being proposed by Government. Could the Minister of State give an update on the state of play and how he sees things progressing as regards being able to deliver these projects in a timely fashion, which is absolutely necessary to protect these communities?

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin Fingal, Fine Gael)
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I will allow Deputy Naughten to come in on this question.

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
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I am grateful for the opportunity. Following on from that question on planning challenges, there is a blockage at the moment in respect of carrying out climate adaptation measures that impact on communities and on our environment. The blockage is Lough Funshinagh in County Roscommon which the Minister of State has visited. Has he engaged or spoken with the Minister with responsibility for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, about visiting and seeing the situation in Lough Funshinagh and trying to undo this blockage for all communities across the country that are dependent on these works?

Photo of Patrick O'DonovanPatrick O'Donovan (Limerick County, Fine Gael)
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To take Deputy Naughten's question first, "yes" is the simple answer and "I do not know" is the other part of the answer. We have engaged with the NPWS. We cannot talk about Lough Funshinagh without talking about the special area of conservation. The first of the climate migrants in County Roscommon have left their homes. People talked about climate migration in this Dáil yesterday like something that was just happening in the northern Sahara. It is happening in our own country.

To go back to Deputy Ó Murchú's point, I would prefer if the language could change around this issue, moving away from flood risk to talk about climate adaptation. The processes we are facing at the moment are incredibly tortuous. We will need all Deputies' help when the planning Bill comes before the Dáil. That Bill is not my responsibility but I certainly will be throwing my eye over it in the hope that it will address some of the stuff we have had to deal with in the last number of years where a person in County Donegal can object to something in County Wexford; all this erroneous sort of stuff needs to be done away with. The strategic infrastructure that Deputy Mairéad Farrell questioned the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, about a while ago will just become pie in the sky if we do not address the fundamentals around this. We all have an obligation in that.