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Estimated bill of €20m for flood defence works in Ennis as concerns raised on stability of Clarecastle Barrage

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*Flooding in Clareabbey. Photograph: Joe Buckley

An estimated €20m is being spent on flood defences projects in the Ennis Municipal District while ongoing concerns regarding the structural stability of the Clarecastle Flood Barrage have been raised.

Construction on the Ennis South Flood Relief Scheme began in March 2019 and is scheduled for completion in August 2021. The Ennis Lower Scheme at Harmony Row has recently commenced with other schemes on the agenda including Thomond Villas in Clarecastle and Shalee Drive/Victoria Court in Ennis.

€20m alone is the estimated total budget for the South Flood Relief Scheme. Construction costs of €14.3m along with land costs, design, advance work, supervision, archaeology and contingency plus “a reserve for future operational and maintenance costs” form the bill, senior engineer with Clare County Council Seán Lenihan outlined.

Flooding at St Flannan’s College and surrounding areas, Ballybeg and the Clare Abbey flood plain will be dealt with under the scheme. It has three elements, the St Flannan’s culvert, the Ballybeg culvert and the flood defence to the section of the River Fergus from Doora Bridge on the Quin Rd to the N85 Bridge at Clareabbey. The first two elements of the scheme are now complete “with only minor snags remaining to be addressed”.

Sheet piling work on the riverbank defence is “ninety five percent complete” but “seasonal environmental constraints” will prevent work on the pump station and landscaping from progressing until April.

April 2021 is earmarked as the completion for the Ennis Lower Flood Relief Scheme which has a calculated cost of €400,000. The final part of the scheme in mid-winter and extends from the Club Bridge to Bank Place on to the opposite side of the river to the Abbey St car park. Flooding risks will be mitigated by a sheet piled wall which “will be clad in stone on the riverside and capped in cut stone creating a nice vista”.

Development of a flood relief scheme for Thomond Villas in Clarecastle will be done by Malachy Walsh & Partners. The development includes construction of embankments and walls with an expected fee of €400k. “Significant environmental challenges” lay in the Council’s path, Lenihan advised as the proposed works are located near a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area.

Funding applications have been made to the Office of Public Works (OPW) to take the scheme to detailed design and planning stage. The Council has also applied to the OPW for funding to carry out a feasibility study over two years for two areas in Ennis town, Shalee Drive and Victoria Court. A hydrologist will have to be appointed to conduct the study.

Necessary funding is also to be sourced by the local authority “to carry out a high level assessment of the Barrage at Clarecastle,” Lenihan stated.

Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) has committed to continue lobbying for the relocation of the Clarecastle flood barrage. “The sea tides come all the way up Shannon Estuary up to the Fergus Estuary but is held back with the coastal flood barrage at Clarecastle”. He raised concerns surrounding the “structural stability” of the Barrage and “its ability to deal with rising sea levels which are way in excess of what it was designed to in last century. If it collapsed it would I believe overwhelm all the flood defences in Ennis at time of high sea level and high rainfall”.

Senior engineer in the Ennis MD, Eamon O’Dea detailed than a company has been engaged to do a structural survey of the Barrage with work to be undertaken on the foundation to its doors in the Spring time.

Flynn added that when the Ennis Lower Flood Relief Scheme is completed it will mean a figure in the region of €40m would have been spent on flood defences along the River Fergus from the Gort Rd all the way to Clarecastle.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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