Athlone’s Flood Alleviation Scheme was given a funding boost this week, as Minister for the Office of Public Works Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran announced a further €4m investment by the Government.
The Government had originally allocated €6m to tackle flooding around Athlone and its environs, but this has now been upped to €10m. It is estimated that the defence works will provide protection to more than 500 homes.
Minister Moran was in Athlone on Tuesday this week for the commencement of preliminary works at The Quay. This will entail archaeological test excavations which will be carried out under the supervision of the project archaeologist, Ed Danaher.
Subject to no issues arising, the construction of the flood relief defences will follow. These will include the construction of stone faced concrete walls, some glass walls, floodgates and various drainage works.
The Quay and at Brick Island are the next two areas for construction in the town, while works at Iona Park are due to be completed shortly, having been started in 2017.
Speaking on Tuesday, Minister Moran expressed his satisfaction that the scheme for Athlone is being advanced.
“This is an absolutely vital Government investment for the economic and social wellbeing of Athlone and the region,” Minister Moran said.
“I am delighted to be here today to witness the start of the next phase of works in Athlone. It is to the credit of all parties involved to be making such progress, and I must thank Westmeath County Council, the consultants at RPS, and the staff of the OPW for their efforts so far.”
Westmeath Council has already progressed four of the eight flood cells through the planning stage. Another cell at The Strand is currently at planning, and the remaining cells are to be progressed to planning later this year.
Subject to approval and the completion of the detailed design, it is hoped to commence construction works in seven of the eight areas by the end of 2018.
Speaking on Wednesday this week, Minister Moran added that there may also be future works on McQuaid’s Bridge on the west side of Athlone.
“I have spoken to residents in the area, the council and the OPW, and we want replace McQuaid’s Bridge with a more modern one,” he said. “The bridge is in disrepair anyway and cannot deal with flood waters. Any plan will, of course, have to go to public consultation as some people might not want it to happen, but we definitely have to look at it.”
“Tuesday was a privilage. It was not long ago that I was sitting in the chamber in Athlone as a councillor, so to be turning the sod on such a major project is a proud and emotional moment for me personally,” Minister Moran concluded.