Thursday, 13 July 2017
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
250. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of proposals for a voluntary home relocation scheme for domestic dwellings affected by flooding and unable to receive insurance cover or adequate remedial works; the number of homes due to be covered by the scheme; the amount due to be allocated; the timeframe of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34229/17]
251. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans for a voluntary farm building relocation scheme due to flooding issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34230/17]
252. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the trial on lowering water levels in Lough Allen undertaken by the Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group; if there are legal or statutory impediments to such measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34231/17]
253. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of meetings held by the interdepartmental flood policy co-ordination group in 2016 and to date in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34232/17]
254. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the establishment and operation of the national flood forecasting and warning service unit; the number of staff employed in the unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34233/17]
255. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of meetings held by the River Shannon co-ordination group in 2016 and to date in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34234/17]
256. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount put aside for the pilot scheme of individual home protection measures; the amount of money drawn down; the timeframe for a decision on the future of the pilot scheme's national roll-out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34235/17]
258. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the Office of Public Works' work on riparian rights landowners legal obligations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34239/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 250 to 256, inclusive, and 258 together.
Home and Farm
On April 11 2017, the Government agreed the administrative arrangements for a Homeowners Voluntary Relocation Scheme for those primary residential properties that flooded during December 4 2015 to January 13 2016. This is a national scheme of humanitarian assistance, targeting aid at those worst affected properties, for which there are no alternative feasible measures.
The first stage of the process has commenced with the OPW working with each of the Local Authorities, using their extensive and detailed local knowledge, to identify the homes that flooded during the event, those that may not benefit from a known or possible engineering solution. These homeowners will be invited to meet with the OPW and others to discuss the details of the scheme that involves a survey of each property during the Second Stage.
In addition to the identification process underway with the Local Authorities, homeowners may also express an interest directly with the OPW, before July 28 2017, to be considered under the Scheme. To date 36 expressions of interest have been received from homeowners in 13 different Local Authority areas.
Full details of the Homeowners Voluntary Relocation Scheme, including the eligibility criteria and how a homeowner may express an interest to be considered under the scheme, are available on the OPW website.
Initial funding of €2m has been allocated this year and funding for future years will form part of the normal budgetary process. Once the initial identifications of homes across all the Local Authority areas has been completed, the OPW will have a clearer indication of the number of homes covered by the scheme at Stage 1, above, and the indicative associated costs and timescale.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has indicated that the administrative arrangements for the Voluntary Homeowners Relocation Scheme will help it, along with its own records of aid provided to farmers in response to these floods, identify those farmyard buildings worst affected by the flooding during Winter 2015/2016. That department will contact and work with these individual farms to determine if there are any alternative remedial works to protect those farmyard buildings at risk. This approach will inform the feasibility of any future once-off targeted scheme for Voluntary Farm Building Relocation.
Lake Levels and Shannon Group
The Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group met on six occasions in 2016 and on one occasion to date in 2017. Information about the Group is available on the OPW website, www.opw.ie.
The Group took a decision in October 2016 to trial the lowering of the lake levels on Lough Allen, within the existing statutory framework, during the Winter 2016/2017 to help mitigate potential flood risk. A protocol was finalised between ESB, Waterways Ireland and the OPW to lower the late Autumn and Winter minimum lake levels in Lough Allen by approximately 0.7 metres with the first reduction implemented in October 2016. The Group has agreed that the trial will be repeated later this year, commencing in late Autumn.
The Group has published its Work Programme for 2017 and is available on the OPW website, www.opw.ie. It is also developing a plan for strategic maintenance, to help reduce further deterioration of the River Shannon, and is considering the development of viable flood risk reduction measures in the Shannon Callows, as a further commitment to enhance co-ordinated activities by the relevant State Agencies. These plans are taking into account the environmental, legal and resource implications involved.
The Interdepartmental Flood Policy Co-ordination Group that I chair met four times in 2016. Last November the Group presented for consideration and agreement by Government an interim report setting out progress on its work and making appropriate recommendations for consideration by Government at this time. The report is available on the OPW website, www.opw.ie. Progress continues to be made by sector leads on recommendations within the interim report and those policy areas identified that require further action. The OPW remains in contact with sectoral representatives, who are members of the Group and I expect to convene a meeting of the Group in the near future, so that the Group’s work is aligned with the outputs of the on the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme.
A Steering Group to establish a National Flood Forecasting Service has met on eleven occasions to date, agreed a Terms of Reference and prepared and agreed an implementation plan comprising a number of phases, including an initial set-up phase and a development and trial phase. Given the complexities involved in establishing, designing, developing and testing this new service, it is anticipated that it will take at least 5 years before it is fully operational and it is estimated it will require a staffing complement of 15 full-time posts. Met Éireann has appointed one new staff member to date to lead the project. Arrangements for further recruitment of additional specialist staff are well advanced.
The Interdepartmental Flood Policy Co-ordination Group is considering the potential costs and benefits associated with the introduction of an individual property protection scheme.
The Group is being informed by two different pilot projects, in Thomastown and Graiguenamanagh in County Kilkenny and Crossmolina in County Mayo. The Co-ordination Group’s work, when completed, will be submitted to Government for consideration in the context of the merits of the introduction by Government of any scheme to support individual property protection measures.
Both pilots are being funded through the OPW’s Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme. In respect of the Kilkenny pilot, the OPW is funding the costs of a research and feasibility study into the potential provision of individual property protection. Kilkenny County Council is considering the consulting engineers’ preliminary report to help inform recommendations to the OPW on the next stages of the pilot. To date the council have drawn down some €30,000 towards the cost of the study.
In Crossmolina, consultants have undertaken surveys of individual properties to assess their suitability for floodgates and Mayo County Council has procured a contractor who is currently installing the defences at the relevant properties. The OPW has provided €109,000 in funding to date.
Work to develop guidance to clarify the rights and responsibilities of landowners in relation to the maintenance of any watercourse on or near their lands is at an advanced stage. It is expected that legal advice to help finalise the guide will be sought in the coming weeks.