While Waterford city emerged reasonably unscathed from the devastating floodwaters that beset so much of neighbouring Cork and Clonmel last week, the latest disaster has led local politicians to call for immediate action.
Senator Paudie Coffey (Fine Gael) said that an advanced nationwide database of drains, dikes, gullies and inlets, which he proposed at County Council level three years ago, could no longer be ignored.
“Too often our roads struggle, and fail, to cope with torrential rainfall because traditional soakage areas have been removed for development and not replaced and we cannot manage run-off effectively,” he said.
“Throw in climate change and the increase in heavy traffic, and the road systems simply cannot cope. When drains become blocked, potholes and flood channels rip through the tarmac causing widespread flooding and devastation.”
Senator Coffey said that the retirement of long-serving Council staff with considerable experience in tackling flooding issues was leading to an “information deficit” at local authority level.
“During the 80’s recession, Waterford County Council offered a voluntary redundancy scheme and in 1987, a third of all Council staff retired,” he said.
“With more cuts coming up, we are likely to see even more experienced people leave local government. We cannot afford to lose their expertise as well.”
Mansergh surveys the damage
Surveying the damage in Clonmel on Friday last, local TD and Office of Public Works Minister Martin Mansergh believes that future flood relief schemes will not fall under the axe as a result of the pending Budget.
“I met with the Minister for Finance for an hour earlier this week to discuss next year’s OPW budget, which has already taken very substantial cuts and will take further cuts, but I am very confident that flood relief schemes already underway, including Clonmel, will continue.”
Minister Mansergh said that flood defences previously installed in Carrick-on-Suir and Kilkenny were performing excellently and he believed the defences for Clonmel would do likewise upon completion.
“It would be wrong to think that the flooding was all due to climate change,” he added. “After all, there is a long history of flooding in Clonmel.
“But it is arguable that some planning decisions might have restricted the flow of the river or closed off places where it could harmlessly flood.”
Local Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes said the latest flooding again demonstrated how the Government lacks a planning mechanism “in dealing with well known flood threats”.
“The Clonmel Flood Relief Scheme has been on the Government’s agenda for years now,” said Deputy Hayes.
“Last February, I called on the Government for the works to be fast-tracked, which, if acted on, would mean that they would be complete by now and as a result, the huge work effort and expense of dealing with the current situation could have been avoided.
“This kind of inefficient, badly implemented planning shows how little foresight the Government displays in coping with predictable situations.”
Deputy Hayes added: “I once again call on Minister Mansergh to push forward the flood works, get this work done and allow the people of Clonmel to get on with their lives.”
Daniels: City works have proven their worth
While the Tramore Road and Superquinn Roundabout area remains problematic, as evidenced last Thursday and Friday, Deputy Mayor Davy Daniels said the Waterpark pumping station truly proved its worth last week.
“We don’t often hear people talking about the things that work well, but it’s only right and proper given the floods of last week that we Councillors say loudly and clearly that the pumping station is proving an invaluable resource for the city,” he said.
“The station is working excellently and has, in my opinion, saved countless households and businesses from the torment and trauma that we’ve witnessed in Clonmel, Cork and other parts of the country.”
Cllr Daniels continued: “Areas of the city such as Newtown, the Park Road, Johnstown, Bath Street and Poleberry to name but a few, places with traditional flooding problems in the past, were flood-free last week. And while you can never say that they won’t flood again, it’s clear that what we’ve put in place in Waterpark is working and working brilliantly.”
Cllr Daniels said that the Tramore Road area remained a problem, but one that the Council is determined to rectify.
“We’ve seen the rewards of flood defence work elsewhere in our city – look at the Quays last week as well for further proof of what’s been done well, and we’re acutely aware of the inconvenience caused by that section of road flooding.
“We’ve had funding pulled in the past by central government just when we thought we could make a start on remedying this long-standing problem and we certainly hope that this won’t happen again. It’s important to let people both in the city and in Tramore know that we’re not sitting on the fence when it comes to this.”
Coffey’s anger at years of inaction
Senator Coffey, who had his fair share of flooding issues to deal with during his County Council days, said the computerised flooding system he’d argued for three years ago represented “a small investment”.
He added: “But nothing happened. Once again, I urge we adopt a programme to record the special knowledge of roads overseers and local landowners before it is too late.”
The Portlaw native said that acting on his 2006 idea could well have helped councils across the country deal with last week’s flooding. “I’m angry that nothing has been done about it,” he said.
“Time and again, roads flood because the same gullies get blocked and the same drains can’t cope. Let’s make a start at identifying the problem places and eliminating this problem in the future.
“At all levels of government, we have many people with good ideas and good intentions. But too often our system fails to provide the action needed to make things happen. I believe politics is about delivery. It is time a workable system was delivered for the future.”