FloodQuayThe sight of Waterford under siege from high tides should “soon” be a thing of the past.

The City has a long history of flooding due to high water levels in the Suir and its tributary, Johns River during extreme tides and storms. Thankfully, with the consequences of climate change (and bad planning) causing devastation in many vulnerable towns and even Cork City this winter, Waterford’s exposure to similar episodes should be all but eliminated within the next three years.

Minister of State Martin Mansergh confirmed to his party colleague Brendan Kenneally that to date, €5million has been provided to the City Council by the Office of Public Works for the design and construction of the Flood Alleviation Scheme by RPS Consulting Engineers. When it was first announced in 2001, the total cost was estimated at upwards of €50m.

Upon completion the overall scheme – involving the construction of approximately 10km of flood walls and embankments – will protect the city from a one-in-200-year flood in tidal areas, and a one-in-100-year flood in locations above the tidal zone.

Phase 1, which is currently under construction, required an innovative design of approximately 1km of 1.1m-high glass flood wall along the south side of the Suir from Grattan Quay to Adelphi Quay, and on John’s River from Adelphi Quay, through the Courthouse grounds to Hardy’s Bridge, Catherine Street.

City Council environmental engineer John Nolan says the “ambitious” use of transparent, toughened glass barriers (seen at first hand in Germany) to replace the existing south quay railings met their key objective to maintain the view of the river as an amenity.

The City Council published proposals for the final phases (2-4) of the scheme late last year. These include the construction of flood walls and embankments on the southern bank of the Suir from Waterpark to Scotch Quay; and on both banks of Johns River from the Suir as far as the Tramore Road (near the Kingfisher Sports Complex; a 10m-high moveable barrier will be available from the City Council to protect the leisure centre and Superquinn when needed).

These works will also incorporate a new footpath/cycleway from Tesco Poleberry along Johns River to the Old Tramore Road.

The contract for phase 4 started this week, raising sections of the Waterford-Tramore Road between the Inner Ring and the Green Road junction. Also, the existing walkway along Johns River is to be extended to join with the footpath on the Outer Ring Road Roundabout into the City.

The City Council says the Tramore Road relief works won’t completely eliminate the prospect of flooding on the route, but will make such occurrences and closures less frequent.

The protection of the NHA-designated Kilbarry Bog – which is earmarked for a €4m, 50-acre public park – is a limiting factor, as is the “astronomical” cost (€7m) of a complete solution as previously put forward.

Planning applications for the remaining phases, which require an Environmental Impact Statement, will be lodged in the coming months with a view to starting work next year, and finishing the entire job in 2013.

Yes, progress comes dropping slow, but after seeing how other parts of the country have suffered of late, the sooner it’s all in place – not least the remaining €45m or so – the better.