MINISTER Brendan Howlin has signed off on a €30m flood prevention scheme for Skibbereen.
During his visit to Skibbereen, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said: ‘The scheme, when completed, will provide much-needed security and protection from flooding to the people of Skibbereen.’
An expectation that the scheme would have started in 2015 was dashed after an EU directive specified that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the River Ilen Flood Relief Scheme needed to be reviewed.
On Monday, Minister Howlin announced that he has considered the report of the consultants appointed to review the EIS and is now in a position to ‘confirm’ the scheme.
Following an eight-week statutory public notification period, the minister said the works ‘may commence, subject to completion of the construction procurement processes’.
With the works likely to take between two-and-a-half and three years to complete, Skibbereen Floods Committee secretary Cathal O’Donovan welcomed the announcement, saying: ‘Relief from flooding for the people of the town – residential, commercial and industrial – is now on the horizon.’
Mr O’Donovan expressed the hope that the appointment of a contractor would be dealt with speedily so that the scheme could start this summer. Minister Howlin explained that the review of the EIS is part of a new process introduced under EU Regulations, and the Skibbereen scheme is just the second to undergo such a review.
The first to be dealt with was the Claregalway scheme, and that involved a considerable delay. The minister acknowledged that the delay had a bearing on other schemes, but he said he was satisfied that the review process has since been ‘streamlined’ and that this would be good news for the €25m Bandon scheme and others.
He said: ‘The River Bandon Scheme has just undergone a competitive tendering process and independent consultants were appointed last Friday to conduct an independent assessment of the EIS.’
Meanwhile, he outlined specific details relating to the Skibbereen scheme describing it as ‘a hard defence scheme’ that will include the construction of new walls and earthen embankments; the replacement of old culverts and construction of new ones; re-grading works at Kennedy Bridge; the construction of surface water pump stations; and associated drainage works.
Labour TD Michael McCarthy travelled to Skibbereen with the minister and welcomed the announcement, saying it was ‘the right solution’ for the town.
He said: ‘Skibbereen has suffered from 21 significant floods between 1943 and 2009, and the new scheme is designed to provide a 200-year flood prevention for 179 homes and 131 businesses.’
Fine Gael TD Noel Harrington said he was delighted that the Skibbereen flood relief scheme was ‘back on track’ and his party colleague, Jim Daly, echoed his sentiments.