Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley raised a number of flooding issues in Mountmellick and Mountrath in the Public Accounts Committee with the head of the Office of Public Works (OPW) in the Dail this week.
Deputy Stanley, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, received a number of commitments and updates from the Chairman of the OPW regarding flood relief works which are due to take place in Laois.
However, he expressed the frustrations of the people in those two towns about the slow progress of putting flood defences in place.
He said: “On the overall schemes, there is much frustration and disappointment about the length of time it takes to carry out surveys, studies, examination of the sites and the work on the contracts and the tenders.
“I am talking about the period from when the work starts to seeing the actual physical work commence.
“I understand that environmental impact assessments, EIAs, have to be done and that there are many requirements on the OPW but the chairman might deal with that.
“With regard to the Mountmellick scheme, Mountmellick suffered very badly three years ago as a result of very severe flooding. Many houses and businesses were impacted.
“When can we hope to see shovels in the ground in Mountmellick and those flood defences being put in place?”
In reply, Maurice Buckley, Chairman of the OPW said: “I am looking at Mountmellick here, which has a €3 million to €3.5 million project budget.
“I feel the Chairman’s frustration, and it is a frustration many Deputies feel, and the public. It does take time. It takes time in other countries as well. We have to start early.
“What we are doing in the OPW is bringing forward as many schemes as possible to go in parallel so that we can prevent that.
Deputy Stanley went on to say: “Can you revert back to me on that?
“A scheme was put in for Mountrath and it was not backed by the OPW on the basis of value for money. There were two weirs. One of them was taken out. The remaining one is causing problems.
“It is increasing the water levels in the river by about 1 m to 1.2 m.
“I find it hard to understand the value for money argument because many of the people living in Patrick Street and in Dunne’s Terrace, in Mountrath, had to abandon their houses so they would say it does represent value for money.
“There is a pipe underneath a bridge that has to be removed and something has to be done with the weir.
“I am aware that minor works have been approved for the Shannon Street area that the council are opening but I am asking that the OPW would go back and look at that issue again.
“I do not see it being a huge cost issue in terms of resolving the issues on the Whitehorse river, in Mountrath. In terms of value for money, people need peace of mind.
“In the cost benefit analysis can Mr. Sydenham take into consideration the households in Patrick Street, Dunne’s Terrace and Stillbrook? It is the residents who are either at risk of flooding or have been flooded in the past.”
In reply, John Sydenham of the OPW said: “There has to be finite limits on what we can spend relative to what we are protecting but in this instance we would be confident that we may be able to come up with a solution by reviewing the scheme in partnership with the council.”