00:00 Saturday 16 June 2012  Written by Leo McMAHON

Minister launches exhibition for Bandon River Drainage Scheme

EXPRESSING the hope it will mark an exciting new dawn for the town, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works (OPW), Tom Hayes TD urged people to make their views known on Monday when launching the public exhibition of the €10 million Bandon River Drainage and Flood Relief Scheme at the Town Hall.

The long sought-after project for a town totally devastated in November 2009 but also hit by serious flooding on ten previous occasions since 1975, is due to commence next May but the public can make submissions until July 20th and/or attend the exhibition running until July 3rd at which officials from the OPW and the environmental consultants will be in attendance on June 20th and 27th (10am to 5pm) and on July 3rd (2 to 8pm) and the plans can also be viewed in Bandon Town Library. All observations will be reviewed, minor amendments, if any, made and the drainage scheme will then be finalized.

Minister Hayes said Bandon was one of the first towns he visited on becoming Minister and spoke of the value he derived from meeting with people directly affected by flood damage. He welcomed the collaboration of the OPW, the Department of the Environment and the town and county councils on the project and particularly stressed the importance of public consultation which previously involved a public information day.

'This scheme, which will take around two years to complete, will provide one in 100 years flood event protection to approximately 150 homes and 200 commercial properties and will provide a solution to the ongoing flooding concerns for the people of Bandon.'

Key features of the River Bandon Drainage Scheme, he stated, were new walls and embankments, excavation of the channel downstream of the Weir to O'Driscoll's Bridge for 3.5 kilometres, a replacement three span footbridge, underpinning of Bandon Bridge, a rock ramp at the weir and parallel to MacSwiney Quay for fish passage and works to the drainage system including new pump stations. He also said that because so much had been learned from it, the Bandon Flood Warning System, using text alerts, will stay in place.

It formed part of a €45m capital spend on OPW projects in Ireland this year, said Mr Hayes, who pointed out that flood relief schemes were under construction in Mallow and Fermoy and at the design and planning stages for Skibbereen and the Lower Lee in Cork city.

The announcement was warmly welcomed on behalf of townspeople and businesses by outgoing Mayor of Bandon and flood victim Seán O'Donovan who said the river was a great asset for fishing and tourism but also a great threat.

Deputy County Mayor and local county councillor Veronica Neville concurred, saying that along with the sewerage scheme which recently commenced, Bandon's future was bright because it would have an infrastructure second to none making it attractive for commercial investment and development.

She urged political intervention to ensure that flood affected Bandon properties could again obtain insurance cover and, in reply, Minister Hayes assured her he recently took the issue up with the Insurance Federation and wished to see a protocol in place to ensure more certainty in this area following state investment.

Local councillors, TDs, officials, Supt Eddie MacEoin, business people and residents (including Gillian Powell, Maria McLaughlin and Eileen Holland) and were welcomed by Mr Michael Collins on behalf of the OPW. A comprehensive powerpoint presentation on the scheme plus its environmental impact assessment, was given by Mr Kieran Thornton of White Young Green (WYG) consulting engineers and also in attendance were officials from consultants McCarthy Keville O'Sullivan, Ryan-Hanley and JBA.

The preferred option, based on detailed analysis, said Mr Thornton was a combination of dredging and flood defences taking into account historical records, technical, social, economic, landscape, environmental, fishery and other factors as well as public consultation and an extensive programme of fishery mitigation and enhancement works were proposed as part of the construction phase which would inevitably have some negative but temporary impacts. Full details were on view in the Town Hall, including before-and-after photos and there was also a free leaflet with map.

The scheme was designed to cater for one in 100 years flood situation with a throughput of 339 cubic metres of water flow

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per second and pointed out that the worst ever flood in November 2009 was 400 cubic metres per second. Even when completed, said Mr Thornton, it was intended to retain the local flood warning system, the emergency response plan and highlight the importance of development and planning controls and public awareness.

Proposed dredging to include bridge underpinnings, he stated, will reduce the river bed level by 1.8 metres downstream of the weir grading at 1:1000 for 3.6km downstream and a low water flow channel with fish pools and riffled will be created to benefit fish life.

Flood defence works, which are also of particular local interest, include, North bank: new embankment along west side Cluid apartments, wall with flood gate along riverside of apartments, new wall along 'The Stretch' in the town centre; flood gate at slip by Allin Institute, new wall at east side of Fluke Hole Lane, improvements to riverside wall by Powell's, new wall along co-op creamery site and new embankment east of the co-op boundary. South bank: new embankment at south west corner of Lidl site and incorporate Lidl and Riverview Shopping centre embankments, new embankment near the old Town Wall, new wall on the river side of existing wall by Kelleher's as far as the community park, new wall from Mill Stream to treatment plant and new embankment east of plant plus flood defences and fish passes at the Bridewell River and Mill Stream (new culvert near Distillery Mill) to include new embankments near the Mart and Atkins and a new wall at Quay Road. Other drainage measures are complementary to the recently started sewerage scheme.

Comments on the scheme can also be addressed to John Kelly, OPW 17-19 Lower Hatch Street, Dublin 2, e mail: john.kelly@opw.ie, and scheme details can be viewed online at www.bandonfloodwarning.ie.

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