With its pier virtually destroyed, roads left impassable, and the threat of even further flooding, the inhabitants of storm battered Inisbofin fearful of “being forgotten about” are pleading with the Galway County Council, local representatives, and Government to provide the funding and manpower to carry out urgent repair work.
The results of the extensive repair work and clean-up undertaken by the Galway County Council in the aftermath of the January storms was washed away with last weekend’s Storm Brigid pounding the already vulnerable Galway coastline, creating even more damage. While south Galway experienced severe flooding, the islands, the Aran islands and Inisbofin, suffered further structural damage. Islanders on Inisbofin have this week been attempting to carry out what repair work they can but say a whole team of council workers is needed if the island, which is an extremely popular tourist destination, is to be saved.
Project co-ordinator of the Inisbofin Development Company, Simon Murray, told the Advertiser last weekend’s severe weather has “done even more damage than is even imaginable”.
“The East End pier, which has been there since 1890, is gone. It looks as if a child spilled Lego on the floor. North Beach, which is a stony cobble beach between Lough Boffin and Northside Bay, has split in two, there is a deep trench cut into it, and sea is coming into the lake. The water went up on to the road and cut off nine houses - one man’s house was flooded. We’re trying to seal the hole but it’s not an easy task. There was also the usual damage to the roads. The people on this island have tried to do their best to help out, doing what repairs they can, sandbagging, and buttressing areas. On the east of the island there is a fear that without the sea wall the water will flush into the bay more easily and houses could be flooded. On the north side there has been flooding up on to the road.
“It’s been hard on everyone here. This is the third round of storm damage. That’s island life, it’s much easier to sort things out on the mainland, we’ve got a stretch of water in the way. Our fear is that we don’t want to be forgotten about. A council engineer was out on the island the Wednesday after the last storm [Storm Christine]. There was an assessment and some work done but we haven’t heard from them since. There has been a lot of work done on the mainland. The local engineer has been trying to do his best here, but we need a whole team out here. One man can’t do it on his own. Some of the damage has got worse. There are three or four spots of roads that need urgent attention as the sea is eating away at them,” said Mr Murray, who added that people do not want to see Inisbofin destroyed, an island that attracts 75 per cent of the national tourism trade.
The Galway County Council has said that it is doing all it can to carry out the necessary repairs and clean-up operations throughout the county. According to acting director of services for roads, transportation, and general service, Liam Gavin, particular attention is being given to the worst affected areas which includes Inisbofin as well as the Aran Islands, and areas of south Galway. Giving an update yesterday on the damage caused Mr Gavin explained: “We’re cleaning up along the coast. The repair work that was done before has been undone again. Areas of concern include Roundstone, Ballyconneely, and Errislannan. The road between Ballyconneely and Clifden was flooded. All main roads are now open, however some minor roads in Clifden are still closed and the public are advised to exercise caution. On Inis Mór, Mainistir and Kilmurvey were badly damaged. On Inisbofin, the North Beach and South Shore Road were left impassable. Heavy rains caused significant problems in south Galway, particularly in Gort. There were a number of roads closed because of flooding in Gort, areas such as Cahermore and Peterswell. We’re continuing the clean-up work in south Galway area.”
Regarding changes to the cost of damage caused Mr Gavin said the initial estimate of €18.2 million which was sent to the Department of the Environment last week will have to be reassessed. Although it is unclear exactly how much this recent storm damage will add to the bill, Mr Gavin indicated that it could be a “substantial” increase of a few millions more that previously estimated.
In the city several areas saw extensive flooding following high tide last Saturday at 5.47am and Galway City Council staff carried out clean-up operations. Several businesses in the Quay Street and Quay Lane areas, as well as some premises in Salthill, were flooded mainly due to overtopping caused by the 5.7 metre peak of high tides. There were a number of short road closures around the docks, Flood Street, and the Prom. Unusually flooding occurred in Fr Griffin Road, Upper Dominick Street, and Munster Avenue areas. There was some damage caused to cars at the Toft and Prom car parks and there was flooding in the Claddagh Quay, Frenchville, and Southpark areas. Galway City Council staff were assisted by more than 30 Galway Civil Defence personnel from 4.30am and 9am on Saturday in the maintenance of road closures and slowing down traffic through flooded areas. Leisureland which has remained closed since the January storms was not flooded due to measures put in place including sandbagging and blocking off all entrances.
Spokesperson for Galway City Council Gary McMahon said that the “extent and amount of damage was not as serious as it might have been if there had been high winds with the high tides” and that council staff have been carrying out clean-up ever since. There had been some worry during Monday morning rush hour that road closures would have to be put in place. Surface water which had pooled on the street “with no where to go” and heavy rain caused some flooding problems in Spanish Parade, Flood Street, and Fishmarket Quay. Traffic calming measures were put in place as people continued to drive through, pushing the water up on to the sandbags and into premises.
Galway city manager Brendan McGrath met with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny during his visit to the city on Monday. While visiting a number of the business in the Spanish Arch area affected by the flooding, Mr McGrath outlined the full extent of the damage and the range of different weather related issues from Silver Strand to Ballyloughane. “It was worthwhile getting the ear of the Taoiseach,” said Mr McMahon that the estimated cost of repairs will certainly increase and that it could run into the millions for the city. A full report is due to be presented at next Monday’s Galway City Council meeting. He added that the council will be working with the OPW on medium to long-term coastal relief works and that there is indications that a short-term solution for the Fishmarket Quay, in the form of a “boom” that can be put in place to act as a barrier, could be viewed favourably.
East Galway farmers fear heavy rain could bring 2009 flooding levels
While January was one of the wettest in decades, February is expected to continue to be very wet with blustery conditions and severe weather. Farmers in east Galway are fearful that if the rainfall that is promised does come flooding could reach 2009 levels which would be a “catastrophe”. According to Fianna Fáil Tuam local election candidate Nora Fahy there are hundreds of acres of farmland underwater in east Galway, and a continuous river maintenance programme needs to be implemented as a matter of urgency to help alleviate flooding along the Shannon Callows.
“Farmers are worried for their livestock and homes as river levels continue to rise. There are hundreds of acres underwater along the Shannon between Lough Ree and Lough Derg. In parts of East Galway for example in my area of Williamstown, many acres of farmland are underwater and inaccessible due to extreme flooding. Farmers cannot get in or out to their stock and there are real fears that the flooding will escalate. It is also difficult for some residents and motorists to transverse the area around Williamstown due to the extreme flooding,” said Ms Fahy, who added that dredging of the Shannon and other rivers in the flood-hit regions is urgently needed as they are clogged up with debris, old vegetation, and silt.
Report identifies fifteen ‘at-risk’ areas in Galway
Details of the latest CEFRAMS (Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Studies), commissioned by the OPW, were released this week giving a detailed list of vulnerable areas at risk of flooding. There were 15 areas identified as being “at risk” in Galway. These are: Ahascragh, Athenry, Ballinasloe, Claregalway, Clifden, Corrofin, Galway city, Gort, Kinvara, Loughrea, Oranmore, Oughterard, Portumna, Roundstone, and Tuam. The list of at-risk areas was devised following consideration of all types of flooding, including river, coastal, heaving rain and groundwater, and taking into account the impact it would have on people, property, businesses, the environment and cultural heritage. Failure of infrastructure such as reservoirs, water supply systems, canals, and storm-water drainage systems was also taken into account. The studies will lead to a flood risk management plan being produced in 2015 that will set out the long-term strategy, and define and prioritise measures to reduce and manage flood risk.