19. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the contingencies put in place to deal with increased water levels in rivers and waterways; the extra measures that have been established to deal with the upcoming winter months; the amount dedicated towards these contingencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 47333/17 asked on 09 Nov 2017)
Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): Responsibility for the overall management and co-ordination to local emergency issues, including flooding events, rests with the Local Authorities. The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government leads the national co-ordination during a severe weather event. The OPW supports the National Emergency Co-ordination Group when the group is convened to address an extreme weather event.
The OPW carries out a statutory maintenance programme on 11,500 km of river channel and approximately 730 km of embankments nationally, on arterial drainage schemes completed by the OPW under the Arterial Drainage Acts 1945 and 1995.
The Government has invested €325m in major flood defence schemes since 1995 that are protecting approximately 8,500 properties with an estimated benefit to the country of damages avoided of over €1.5bn. The OPW currently has ten schemes at construction and twenty-six at different stages of design or planning.
The €40m expended by the OPW’s Minor Flood Works and Coastal Protection Scheme for 650 small scale local authority projects is providing flood protection to over 6,200 properties.
State Agencies continually monitor and, where possible, control river levels within their areas of responsibility, including on the Shannon. The Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group established in 2016 is trialling the lowering of levels in Lough Allen to complement existing water level protocols in place for Lough Ree. It is also targeting maintenance works along the Shannon. These additional actions can help, in a small way, to manage flood risk.
The OPW’s proactive flood risk planning, through the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme is nearing completion. I would hope by the end of this year to seek the approval from the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform for the 29 Flood Risk Management Plans developed under the CFRAM process. Thereafter I would hope to announce the proposed structural measures contained within those Plans that will, over the coming years, be taken to detailed design to protect those communities at assessed risk.
There are a range of other measures already in place to protect against a flood risk, including:
- improved planning guidelines promoting sustainable planning and development,
- improved national and local emergency flood response plans, and
- guidance to households and businesses on planning for a flood event. The Government’s Be Winter Ready campaign is an important aspect of this initiative.