High tides to test new flood defences in Foynes

Colm Ward


Colm Ward

Around 40 homes and businesses in Foynes were affected by flooding earlier this month [Picture: Michael Cowhey]
The people of Foynes are keeping their fingers crossed that the high tides expected at the weekend will not lead to a repeat of the severe {http://www.limerickleader.ie/news/local-news/foynes-as-flood-waters-recede-concern-grows-1-5800616|flooding|read story here} that hit the town at the start of the year.

The people of Foynes are keeping their fingers crossed that the high tides expected at the weekend will not lead to a repeat of the severe {http://www.limerickleader.ie/news/local-news/foynes-as-flood-waters-recede-concern-grows-1-5800616|flooding|read story here} that hit the town at the start of the year.

Since then, the Shannon Foynes Port Company has spent €60,000 repairing and reinforcing the flood defences that failed during that storm at the beginning of January. This work has involved fixing a breach in the harbour wall, located between the main street and the railway line to the port, and also installing a temporary flood defence system.

However, Minister of State Brian Hayes - who has responsibility for public works - admitted that a longer term solution was needed to prevent similar flooding in the future. He was in Foynes last Friday to meet the Shannon Foynes Port Company, local representative and Limerick County Council.

“There are no quick fixes to these problems. There are long term solutions that need to be funded. It has to be based on actually solving a problem and throwing money at this is not a solution. We need an engineering and hydrological model that actually works for the people of Foynes and the people elsewhere in coastal communities who has been affected by these storms,” he said.

He added that the work already done by the port company was “very comforting” and he gave a commitment that funding would be made available for further flood defence measures.

“There is a short term solution and a longer term solution required here in Foynes because of the damage that was caused and there is nothing to stop some of the solutions that will make up the long term solution being brought forward so obviously as those solutions come in from the local authority, we will turn them around as soon as we can,” he said.

He also referred to the Shannon basin Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) study that is currently taking place to assess flood risks in the area and which is due to report by the end of 2015. “Once the CFRAM is in place, we will know the hotspots and we will know the funding that is required,” said Mr Hayes.

Local Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan, who called the meeting of stakeholders in Foynes, welcomed the fact that the Office of Public Works had committed to working with the other agencies in drawing up a plan for Foynes. He said that it was important now that the channels of communication remained open and he asked the state agencies to ensure that the local community would be kept updated on any developments.

“Because, while everyone might be working away and beavering away in their own little terrain, I think one of the main concerns here in the community of Foynes was the lack of information about what’s happening or what can happen. There is another heavy spring tide due on the 31st of January and there is obvious concern about what might happen as a result of that,” he said.

One of those directly affected by the recent flooding was Cathy Hanlon, proprietor of the Foynes Inn which was partially submerged when the water flowed onto the main street.

With another high tide expected this weekend, she says that residents and business people are “just hoping” that there will not be a repeat and that the newly repaired defences will hold.

However, she stressed the need for a more permanent solution. “There were [flood defences] in place and they need to be replaced in a more modern manner. We should be looking at putting something in place over the summer so that it will be ready by next winter,” she said.

Some of those whose homes were flooded have yet to move back in - a situation which John Sheahan, cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council, drew attention to at the meeting in Foynes on Friday.

“We need more than sticking plaster now. We need a full appraisal of the works that need to the done and proper flood barriers put in and I am confident that the Minister has that message got. The message I gave him was that we were hearing a lot about promenades and tourist attractions in West Clare but this is about people and people are discommoded. They are out of their houses, they are in hospital following these floodings and I think this should be the priority, not tourist attractions,” he said.

He added that the government should look at compensating those whose homes and businesses were damaged.

“There has been precedent where money has been made available by the state for people who have been discommoded. It was done for the people when the Dodder burst its banks in Dublin so I can’t see why it can’t be done here as well,” he said.

The chief executive of Shannon Foynes Port Company, Pat Keating, stressed that the flood defences put in place since last month were “at least equal” to any previous defences that were in place.

He was responding to a belief by some local residents that a large embankment that had been in place until the 1960s would have prevented the kind of flooding witnessed last month.

“In the short term, we have done a lot of work and we spent a lot of money putting new flood defences in during January and also repairing older flood defences, so we now have a 1km stretch of flood defences in Foynes that was not there a month ago,” said Mr Keating.

However, he acknowledged that more work would need to be done in the long term. “What we expressed to the Minister was the need for the OPW to fast track their C-FRAMS programme which will give us the information we need to plan for the long term,” he said.

He added that a plan for a 200-metre new flood defence wall was currently in the process of being surveyed.