WORK on Skibbereen’s €18m Flood Defence Scheme has entered its final phase, and local people are living in the hope that the scourge of flooding is finally at an end.
The contractor, Jons Civil Engineering Ltd, has started work on the last five locations, which accounts for the remaining 7% of the overall scheme.
The substantive works are scheduled to be finalised by late Spring, but senior resident engineer Brendan Minihane acknowledged that some minor works will be done during the summer months.
The five locations include the quay wall at the West Cork Hotel; the continuation of the flood defence wall at The Flaxmills; the completion of a non-return valve structure at the rear of Drinagh’s hardware store; the completion of a pumping station at the Market Street bridge; and flood defence works to a house on the Castletownshend Rd. Landscaping will also take place on the flood defence walls from the Rugby Club to Mill Rd.
Although the scheme isn’t 100% complete, Mr Minihane said homeowners and business people are already feeling the benefits and that ‘the first real test of the new flood defence scheme’ came last November 23rd.
On that morning, there was 36mm of rainfall over a two-hour period and that deluge – combined with a Spring tide – meant the water levels in the Assolas Stream were 300mm, or 1ft, above street level.
‘Normally,’ he said, ‘that would have resulted in flooding, particularly in Townshend Street, so it is a good indication that the flood relief scheme is working in this area.’
He explained that the Assolas Stream, on the Baltimore Road, takes the fast-flowing run-off from the rocky terrain at Coombe Hill. Because there is little or no soakage in that area, he said the run-off from the hill can quickly become a flash flood, and that this spills out onto Townshend St. However, on this occasion, there were sufficiently high defence walls in place to protect local properties.
There was a further incident the following week when, on Tuesday, November 27th, 24mm of rain fell between 5am and 9am, and this too caused water levels to reach 1ft above street level, but there was no flooding.
On Wednesday, December 5th, following 46mm of rain over an eight-hour period, Mr Minihane said there was surface water flooding on the Castletownshend Rd, but he said this was unprecedented because it was caused by a fallen tree obstructing the flow of water on the Caol Stream, 1km from the centre of town.
Another lesson learned – particularly from the November 23rd incident – was that Mill Rd, which, historically, has had to endure the worst of the town’s flooding, appeared to be protected by the flood defence walls along the river.
Additional findings also showed that by clearing the channel under Kennedy Bridge, as well as the widening of the river, meant that there is now improved capacity and flow on the River Ilen.
There are, however, some concerns and they were voiced by Cathal O’Donovan, who is the long-serving secretary of the Skibbereen Flood Committee who pointed out that while the flood defence works held, and did protect properties in the town, there was a problem caused by surface water which made it hazardous for motorists, and was, in some places, impassable.
Although grateful to see the substantive works nearing completion, Mr O’Donovan called on Cork County Council to carry out works in four other flood risk areas, which are not part of the town’s flood defence scheme.
Mr O’Donovan said the flood defence scheme is designed to protect the town from being flooded by the Ilen River and its tributaries.
But he insisted the Council needs to do more, particularly at The Cutting, which flooded part of Bridge Street on November 23rd because the drains became silted up with leaves and debris.