It could be 2015 before Athlone sees any long-term solution to the flooding problems that plagued the town in winter 2009.
There was outrage among Athlone councillors at Monday’s meeting of Westmeath County Council, when it emerged that it will be 2015 before the Office of Public Works (OPW ) produces a plan to tackle flooding in Athlone and the surrounding region.
The council’s director of services Barry Kehoe said that in the meantime “there is nothing we can do...unfortunately it is out of our hands”.
In spite of the fact that the Athlone authorities had already identified the need for flood barriers in the Deerpark area of the town, Mr Kehoe said that in the OPW’s view this “solution” was premature.
The OPW has produced a Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment programme, which aims to identify areas of risk, including in the Shannon catchment area. This document is on public display until next Tuesday November 1 at www.cfram.ie
Flood maps will be published in 2013, and the final results of the study are due for publication in December 2015.
According to the OPW, “The plans will define the current and future flood risk in the Shannon RBD and set out how this risk can be managed”.
However the news comes as little consolation to Athlone residents who live in fear of a repeat of November 2009, when hundreds of people were forced out of their homes due to the severe flooding
“It is very poor to have to wait until 2015, this doesn’t alleviate the worry of a repeat of what happened in 2009. I don’t think a preliminary assessment is needed. What are we supposed to say to people when they ask what is being done?” asked Cllr Gabrielle McFadden.
Cllr Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran was highly critical that it had take the OPW two years to come up with the set of maps currently on display.
“All this money is being put into mapping, when the information is already there. What happens in 2013 if the money’s not there? We could be looking at 10 years. We need to look at the weir wall in Athlone; we depend on Ardnacrusha, we have no control. I would like us to put forward that proposal.”
However Mr Kehoe said the OPW is only looking for submissions on mapping at present.
“The weir wall is one of the issues with the Shannon, and this will be part of the later stages of the project.”
He said the mapping, once complete, would feed into the flood risk plan for the entire Shannon catchment area, and that urban areas such as Athlone, which had experienced flooding in the past, would be a priority.