It could be 2015 before the Midlands see any long-term solution to the flooding problems that plagued the region in winter 2009.
There was outrage among 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 the county.
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 local authorities had already identified solutions such as flood barriers in some areas of Athlone, Mr Kehoe said that in the OPW’sview 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 and East catchment areas which take in areas of Westmeath. 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.
However the news comes as little consolation to 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.”
Mr Kehoe said the mapping, once complete, would feed into the flood risk plan for the entire area, and that areas which had experienced flooding in the past would be a priority.