A senior engineer in Clare County Council has expressed his confidence that funding will be provided for essential works at the Shannon Embankments which would protect the Airport and town from flooding.

As the town is below sea level, the Shannon Estuary Flood Defences are critical to its protection. While protected by embankments and two pumping stations, the Office of Public Works (OPW) last year said new embankments totalling almost 7km and new defence walls of almost 5km are needed to protect one of Ireland’s leading airports. It serves more than 1.6 million passengers a year. Almost €40m needs to be spent to protect against coastal flooding. If the works aren’t undertaken, potential damages of almost €270m may arise in a worst-case scenario.

Addressing members of the Shannon Municipal District at their July meeting, Senior Engineer, Sean Lenihan stated that “there is no secret that there are ongoing concerns about flooding at Shannon and the airport”. He listed wave action on front, water levels exceeding crest levels, wave overtopping crest levels, geotechnical failure, access for emergency repairs and erosion of crest and back face as his main concerns at the embankments.

“Geo technical failure is the worst case scenario at the embankment”. Lenihan felt “the embankments have done a good job to date”. He informed councillors that Clare County Council invited the OPW and Shannon Airport to come together and commission a report which is currently in draft format and will be finished by the end of the week. Once the report is published, consultants will be appointed.

He added, “We want to futureproof the embankments and have confidence in them for the next 100 years”. Sean said the town and airport were “hydraulically linked” and “a breach in one could link to a risk in another”. He was adamant they have to be integrated as an overarching project. “I’m very confident funding will be provided from various parties”.

Recently launched Flood Risk Management Plans from CFRAMs make reference to the need to carry out an assessment of the Embankments and also mentions that the Shannon Town proposal relies on works being done as required to the Embankments.

Cathaoirleach of the SMD, Cllr Gerry Flynn remarked that all this came about from a motion at a Clare County Council meeting. He recalled that “there was a time when the embankments were inspected weekly”.

Fianna Fáil’s Pat McMahon thanked Lenihan for his update and said “I always regard him as a doer”. “To be fair the work that was done originally was excellent and never envisaged climate change. Future is the key word”, he continued. “If the banks come under serious pressure it would be a catastrophe”, the Newmarket-on-Fergus councillor cautioned.

Cllr Mike McKee was adamant “it was a no brainer to have the town and airport separate”. “It’s fantastic that it’s progressing” Cllr Cathal Crowe commented. Fine Gael’s John Crowe emphasised the importance of the defence work, “There’s so much to protect, we’ve a town and an airport to protect”.

Reacting to the input of councillors, Sean Lenihan reiterated “I’ve 100 percent confidence in work that will be done. Anywhere there’s a weak point or danger will be looked at. I’m very positive of a successful outcome”. He noted that the Industrial Estate is another location to be considered and concluded “any works we do will be futureproofed”.

*Photograph: Shannon Commercial Properties

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