The construction of flood defences for one of the most flood-prone zones in Cork city centre is being fast-tracked amid criticism of ongoing delays on the Lower Lee flood relief scheme.
The Office of Public Works, which is overseeing the €60m flood defence scheme — the largest of its kind in the country — confirmed last night that it is working to decouple flood defence works in and around Morrison’s Island from the overall project, and hand responsibility for its delivery over to Cork City Council.
“OPW and Cork City Council have agreed in principle to bring forward the design and construction of the defences on Morrison’s Island which will largely deal with the tidal flooding problem which regularly affects the city,” a spokesperson for the OPW said.
“The flood defence works at Morrison’s Island will be carried out as part of the public realm project being taken forward by the city council for this area.
“Design work has already started on this and the council hope to bring these proposals forward to planning this summer with a contractor to be procured towards the end of the year which should enable works to be commenced in the first quarter of 2017.”
Further consultation on the preferred options for the overall Lower Lee scheme is due to take place in May, with construction work scheduled to start in late 2017.
The OPW confirmed that work will start downriver of the Inniscarra dam and will progress in phases westwards towards the city centre.
“By completing these works first, it will allow the use of interim optimised dam operating procedures and thereby significantly reduce overall flood risk,” said the spokesperson.
“There are likely to be four to five different phases in order to reduce disruption to the city and each phase may overlap with the preceding phase.”
It could be 2022 before the scheme is completed.
The news emerged yesterday as city centre traders breathed a sigh of relief after the city escaped major damage from two flooding events on Sunday.
Low pressure, a high spring tide, and easterly winds combined to drive a tidal surge up the harbour towards the city centre on Sunday morning, and again in the evening.
Water poured on to streets in low-lying areas such as Union Quay, Morrison’s Quay, South Terrace, Georges Quay, South Mall, Proby’s Quay, French’s Quay, Crosses Green, Sharman Crawford St, Wandesford Quay, and Lavitts Quay.
The flooding around South Terrace was exacerbated by heavy rainfall and surface water run-off.
City centre traders criticised the slow progress on the delivery of flood defences seven years on from the devastating 2009 flood.
Lawrence Owens, the chief executive of Cork Business Association, said they will ramp up pressure on the OPW and elected public representatives to deliver a scheme soon.
“We have to continue to lobby, and raise the ante to ensure the works are delivered,” he said, adding that in the urgency to deliver flood defences, the quick and easy option of “throwing up concrete walls” must be avoided.
“It must be done sensitively,” he said. “Flood defences in the city must be done in an aesthetically pleasing way, like what was done in Waterford. The river must still be part of the fabric of our city.”
Mr Owens said the issue of reinsurance will then have to be addressed, with insurers being compelled to provide insurance to uninsured businesses who will benefit from the flood defences.