As storms continue to bombard Galway city and coastline the bill for the cost of repairs, continues to rise with an extra €135,000, on top of the original estimation of €1.3 million, needed to reinstate and improve rock armour.
City manager Brendan McGrath revealed the mounting cost at Monday’s council meeting after outlining the details of the updated Recent Severe Weather report, which included the response and continguency plans put in place by Galway City Council working with other bodies such as the fire service, HSE, the gardai, and Civil Defence during the period between Saturday, January 25, and Monday, February 3.
Mr McGrath told councillors the “cost of report will be €135,000 more” than was previously indicated. At the January meeting it was estimated that the overall cost for repairs and returning to pre-storm conditions in areas including Silverstrand, Blackrock to Birdoo (the pathway running along the back of the golf club), Blackrock to South Park, and Ballyloughane Beach, would come to €882,375. The cost for the re-instatement and remediation works to Leisureland was estimated to be in excess of €500,000, however, the council is to be fully reimbursed by insurance companies.
City hall official Frank Snowden advised that the extra €135,000 would be needed to provide improvements to rock armour and to repair what was previously in place. A separate application for funding to rebuild sea defences is due to be submitted by February 27. Regarding the damage, Mr Snowden said: “We were lucky the wind wasn’t as strong on February 1. Three hours later the wind built up, it was severe. It could have been a lot worse.” Regarding the damage to the walkway from the diving board to Birdoo during the winter storms he explained the “only thing that resisted the sea was the concrete bases of the seats, they were left intact” and so the council will be looking at putting in a stronger concrete path.
Mr McGrath praised council staff for the “fantastic work” as well as the 40 volunteers of the Civil Defence who were on duty at 4am on January 31 because of concerns that evacuation would be required. “I have huge sympathy for the property owners affected, some for the third time. Some just reopened two days before, one did a huge fit out, opened on the Friday and was flooded again by the Saturday,” said Mr McGrath who added that staff were mobilised to fill sandbags and that 8,000 sandbags were used.
Starting off the commendations, Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF) thanked City Hall for its “exceptional work” and “leadership”. He also praised the outdoor staff for the “level of committment, they showed exceptional team effort”. However, he added “no Government minister was to be seen in Galway in the last six weeks since the flooding started”.
Firing back at this criticism, Mayor Padraig Conneely (FG) pointed out that the Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited Galway on Monday, February 3, meeting with affected businesses, residents, and the city manager. “When it comes to a decision it will be the Taoiseach, not Michael Martin walking around Salthill. He held a very fruitful meeting with the city manager,” said Cllr Conneely.
“The Taoiseach and [Minister] Simon Coveney. I invited MEP Jim Higgins, Senator Hildegarde Naughton, and we visted people affected by the flooded,” said Cllr Frank Fahy (FG), who then proposed that a plan be drawn up to deal with the flooding issue in the Quay Street/Flood Street area.
Complimenting the visit by the Taoiseach, Cllr Niall McNelis (Lab) noted that there were many sandbags stolen in the Ravens Terrace and Toft Park areas. He then proposed that the council looks into getting one tonne integrated sandbags to provide better flooding protection.
Cllr Catherine Connolly (Ind) then enquired where the money was coming from since the OPW is only giving 90 per cent funding for rock armour and defence. Cllr Colette Connolly (Lab) noted that a motion had previously been passed requesting the Government to reimburse the council 100 per cent. “The figure is now close to a million, that is only to reinstate works to pre-storm conditions. If we don’t put pressure on how can we come up with 10 per cent of a million when we struggled to put the budget together.”
Mr Snowden confirmed the council has sourced integrated one tonne sandbags which are far better at preventing flooding and they should be in place before the next potential flooding. Regarding Spanish Arch, he added the various structures are being investigated but in the interim a barrier, such as a water filled boon, will be used. Mr McGrath then told councillors he is hopeful Galway will be prioritised for funding for permanent flood defences in areas identified by the CFRAM report and that while “not every penny” will be recouped from the OPW, the council will receive a “fair amount”. The council is also close to submitting a foreshore licence application for Silverstrand which will go some way to alleviating erosion issues there.