*Floods at St Flannan’s College in 2009.
FLOODING EVENTS which occurred in Midleton last month are “unlikely to occur” in Clare’s county town.
Senior officials in Clare County Council offered assurances at this month’s meeting of the Ennis Municipal District that the town was safe in its flood defences following investments of over €30m. Most recent floods in Ennis took place in 2014, 2015 and 2020.
An engineer’s report was requested by Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF) on the potential risks of flooding to both Parnell Street and Abbey Street car parks “if a severe rainfall event occurred with flooding and high-tide levels similar that took place in Midleton. The recent Midleton flood recorded significant damage to property in the town, a town which is affected by tides such as Ennis”.
Eamon O’Dea, senior executive engineer with the Council outlined that the town was protected from flooding by the River Fergus Upper and Lower Fergus Certified Drainage Schemes by the OPW, the Council’s Ennis South Flood Scheme, the tidal barrage at Clarecastle, the Watery Road Flood Scheme and the Lough Girroga Flood Scheme.
He explained that the River Fergus “normally peaks in Ennis five days after heavy rainfall” with more inclined relief for the Claureen River “resulting in discharge of rainfall in a saturated catchment arriving in Ennis in twelve hours. In all recorded floods, the River Fergus is not at peak flow when the flashier flow from the Claureen passes through the town”.
O’Dea said that the tidal barrage at Clarecastle closes as the tide raises “as the river flow is retained upstream of the barrage”. He flagged, “the river is only directly affected by the tide levels downstream of the barrage”.
Rainfall and river levels are monitored by the team within the Ennis MD, O’Dea detailed. Precautionary principles apply when there is uncertainty in the forecasts, he admitted. “Ennis has a flood protection scheme and a tidal barrage in place, therefore the breaching of the riverbanks or the overflow of the riverbanks as witnessed in Midleton is unlikely to occur”.
Commitment from an engineer “that there is no risk of flooding” in both car parks was requested by Cllr O’Callaghan, “what is proposed would be ludicrous without an engineer signing off on it”. He questioned if enough investment had been put into the tidal barrage. “are the two car parks on a flood plain and if they are then I have a difficulty that a development is planned for the two sites, it would be better judgement if the area is not touched”.
He recounted that his own home was flooded in 2009 and referenced how so many businesses have been “destroyed” following flooding in towns and villages.
Seconding the proposal, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) asked for clarity on whether the car parks were situated on flood plains. “A fifth of all of Co Clare’s landmass is a catchment for the water that comes down into Maid of Erin, the analysis in my own view is that the Barrage in Clarecastle is functioning but it is only a small outlay which is being blocked by the tides rising, it is allowing four or five hours for it to empty”.
Cllr Mary Howard (FG) admitted she was “a little alarmed” upon reading the motion. She referred to the floods of 2009, “I will never forget the sight of St Flannan’s College and the sounds of the water”. She continued, “it was a really frightening time but since then a huge amount of money spent in order to make the town safe”.
Pumps at Harvey’s Quay have not had to be used since they were installed, Cllr Howard observed. She said the most recent investment on flood defences surpassed €20m, “these flood defences have worked, I would be afraid of people. reading this in the media and remembering back to fourteen years ago getting the fright of their lives that it will happen again”.
Devasting events can happen so “quickly” with flooding, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) acknowledged. She said the flooding in Midleton happened within thirty minutes, “Midleton didn’t have a flood defence system in place,” she claimed. “I understand Cllr O’Callaghan is wishing to get guarantees that we have a flood defence system that is working, the response indicates that Ennis has a flood protection system and tidal barrage so the events of Midleton are unlikely to occur”.
Colleran Molloy said she could recall flooding on the Kildysart Rd where one house was “completely submerged” in water to which Cllr O’Callaghan advised her that was his own home. She pointed out that Cllr Flynn also had experience of his home flooding. “I have witnessed it on a professional level as a fire officer for 25 years as well as a personal level so I have a personal and political interest,” he responded.
Ennis does not want to experience flooding but appears to have a fully functioning flood relief scheme, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) stated. He recalled assisted in drawing water away from Cllr O’Callaghan’s home when it flooded.
Millions of euros have been spent on Ennis’ flood protection, Cllr Pat Daly (FF) observed. He was another elected representative to have had a history of flooding, “I had an experience in the 1960s in my house in Parnell Street having two foot of water rising inside it, I would hope that type of stuff would never happen again”.
Responding to the debate, O’Dea told councillors the River Fergus was “one of the most observed rivers in the country I can tell you”. He added, “the barrage protects the town, the tide doesn’t affect town area”. Eamon said, “The river is only directly affected by the tide levels of the stream in Clarecastle. We are doing structural work to barrage in Clarecastle”.
Director of Services, Carmel Kirby said the Council was “fortunate” to have a number of competent engineers in the area. She detailed that more than €30m was spent on flood defences in Ennis, “for the most recent project the costs escalated and due to work of engineers we persuaded OPW to invest in additional costs which arose from inflation. I’m confident that Ennis is well protected from the flooding”.