Minister of State for the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Flood Relief, Seán Canney today (15 October, 2016) gave the opening address at the Irish National Flood Forum Conference in Ballinasloe, County Galway.
Speaking at the Conference the Minister said” Managing flood risk is a key priority for this Government. From assessment to delivery of solutions the Government is actively working to alleviate and mitigate the damage from flooding. Government investment of €480m since 1995 with over 37 completed major flood defence schemes and almost 600 minor schemes, provided protection to 12,000 properties last winter.
Building on this past investment, the Government has demonstrated its support of flood relief by extending its commitment to provide €430 million to Flood Risk Management between 2016 and 2021. Annually the allocation for flood defence works will more than double from €45m to €100m per annum”.
Minister Canney went on to say “At this time, ten major capital flood defence schemes are under construction, two more are due to commence later this year and a further 23 schemes are at planning and design stage. These projects will provide protection to at least a further 4,000 properties at risk of flooding.
I anticipate that we will have a minimum of six further schemes at construction stage during 2017. This represents a significant ramping up of activity by my Office on flood alleviation works and I will ensure that this pace of construction activity will be maintained in future years, particularly with the inclusion of the prioritised schemes through the CFRAM Programme”.
The Minister referred to progress being made on the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Programme. The Minister said “the proactive planning by Government for flood risk management is nearing completion. Public consultation has been the bedrock to inform and finalise the Programme to identify the feasible measures for the 300 at most risk areas. I am pleased to be able to tell you here today that a milestone has been achieved in that the last of the CFRAM plans has recently been published for consultation”.
The Minister also referred to the initiatives that are being taken to reduce the timelines for the delivery of flood relief schemes. “Following my appointment as Minister of State, I convened a cross-Government group of Ministers and officials to explore ways to accelerate the timeline for delivery of flood-related works across each of these three elements.
As a result, the recently published General Scheme of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 provides for new screening arrangements for environment impact assessments (EIA) for flood related works and is aimed at streamlining the process of determining planning consent for the undertaking of such works. In tandem with the new EIA screening provisions in the General Scheme, it is proposed to review the mandatory EIA thresholds for flood related works. I am hoping that these measures will result in a significant reduction in the times taken to bring the schemes to construction stage”.
Ensuring that home owners and business owners can insure their properties against flood damage is also a priority. The Minister went on to say” I met recently with Insurance Ireland to stress the need for flood victims to have the best possible chances to be able to obtain insurance cover at reasonable cost. I got an assurance from them to consider again the insurance risk associated with demountable defenses, given these defenses are built to the required standard to provide robust levels of flood protection to properties; and that deployment protocols, warning systems and emergency response systems are in place. My Office is working with Insurance Ireland over the coming weeks to provide it with the information it requires to review its current assessment”.
In conclusion the Minister stated “This is an ideal forum for community resilience leaders to exchange experiences, practices and concerns. I would welcome a report from the Forum to allow the initiatives and issues discussed here today to inform the Government’s policies and future investment in flood risk management. Government cannot solve all flooding problems overnight and importantly cannot do it alone. It needs people and communities. I know that today you will have an opportunity to share experiences and mutual issues of concern as well as hearing how these issues are being addressed at home and abroad. I can assure you of my personal commitment and that of the Government to addressing and advancing the flood mitigation agenda with communities”.