Following the news last week that Foxford had been deemed as being 'not cost beneficial' to have flood prevention works carried out on it as part of the Western Catchement Flood Risk Assessment and Manangment (CFRAM ) scheme, Westport fell to a similar fate this week. And like the response from local representatives in Foxford last week, there was disappointment and bemusement from the elected members of the West Mayo District at this news.
The members were told by the OPW, which is responsible for the scheme, that if a one in 1,000 year flood occurred on the Carrowbeg River in the heart of the town, the estimated damage it would cause would be in the region of €620,000; however following investigations as part of the programme it was found that it would cost in the region of €1 million to put in improvement works to stop such an event happening, therefore it was deemed not to be cost beneficial to carry out such works.
Last year following very heavy rainfall the river rose to the top of the walls along The Mall in the town and there was serious concern that it was going to overspill the walls and cause serious damage to properties along Castlebar and Bridge Street in the town, and Mayo County Council was forced to close off the streets. The actual level of the flooding was not recorded either, because the monitor that was being used by the EPA to monitor the river washed away in the flood was washed away, because it wasn't designed for that kind of work and the OPW themselves use a different monitor for such detection.
Cathaoirleach of the West Mayo District, Brendan Mulroy, was dismayed that Westport did not meet the criteria. "We'll be saying we told you so when the town floods, because it will, but there will be very little comfort to the people who are not being protected now," he said.
Cllr Teresa McGuire also hit out at the report, saying: “We’ve been waiting so long for this CRFAM report, it was used as a carrot dangled in front of us [for when the coucillors tried to work on solutions for flood defences] and this is it.”
Cllr Christy Hyland also raised the issue that people will struggle to get home insurance now, because the report has marked out a number of flooding scenarios, be it in a one in 100 years event or a one in 1,000 years event, saying: “If you’re in a blue zone [marked as a flood risk in one of those scenarios] it’s marked as as a flood risk and you won’t be able to get insurance, because you’re saying it’s a flood risk.”
The issue of who is responsible for the river maintence was also raised, with the OPW spokesperson telling the members that the Carrowbeg was not part of the OPW’s arterial drainage scheme so it was not its responsibility. The spokesperson said that landowners and the county council could carry out works to clean the river if they wished. Cllr Christy Hyland commented: “I’m baffled, by the name of God we’ve a river running through the town and nobody knows whose responsible for it.” Cllr Michael Holmes responded: “You go down into it and start cutting trees or branches and soon enough someone will come along and tell you to stop, then you’ll know whose responsible for it.”