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Update provided on proposed flood relief scheme in Portarlington

An update has been provided on a the progress of the proposed flood relief scheme in Portarlington.

Parts of the town, along with Mountmellick, was devastated by flooding in November 2017 and again in January 2018.

While as recently as March, the Ballymorris Road has been closed due to flooding beneath Railway Bridge which was caused by the construction of 22 houses at the location.

To address flooding issues nationally, the Office of Public Works (OPW) commissioned and completed Catchment and Flood Risk Management (CFRAM) studies covering the entire country.

The River Basin Barrow CFRAM Study was completed with support from various County Councils, including Offaly and Laois County Councils.

An output of the study identified flood risk areas, including Portarlington and Mountmellick, and the associated impacts of flooding. The plan also set out the measures and policies to be pursued in order to achieve the most cost effective and sustainable management of flood risk.

Following the launch of the CFRAM Study findings, Binnies/Nicholas O’Dwyer were appointed in August 2020 to complete a detailed project level engineering assessment for Portarlington.

The assessment will involve identification of appropriate flood risk alleviation measures and preparation of detailed design drawings and documents.

Binnies/Nicholas O’Dwyer will carry out the appropriate Environmental Assessments including the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) and the Natura Impact Statement (NIS), where required under the relevant legislation.

A report, produced by Binnies/Nicholas O’Dwyer, outlines where the flood relief scheme now stands.

Over the past few months progress has been made with the Hydrological Analysis. Binnies/Nicholas O’Dwyer have issued the Hydrological Report, with work to prepare this report including:

• reviewing the hydrology used in the study;
• assessing its suitability for use in the current study;
• reviewing and compiling recorded flow data at the river gauging stations in the study area;
• thorough review of the water level-flow rating relationships at those gauging stations;
• review of information and data about recent and historical flood events;
• review of the catchment boundaries and subdivision for use in the hydraulic model.

A draft Natural Water Retention Measures Methodology (NWRM) document has also been issued by Binnies/NOD and is being used to complete the NWRM mapping exercise.

Furthermore, survey procurement packages for topographical surveys and CCTV/Culvert surveys have been issued to the framework contractors for tender.

Work is progressing on gathering baseline environmental data that will feed into the environmental constraints study for the scheme and, moving into the spring/summer, the Environmental Impact Assessment.

A programme of recruiting local environmental specialists is underway, this includes the procurement of the ecologists who are scheduled to undertake habitat surveys and invasive species surveys in the coming weeks. A Breeding Snipe survey has been procured and will commence shortly.

In addition, work has been made to create an initial draft stakeholder engagement strategy.

The next steps will involve data collection and review, detailed surveys, environmental assessment, and Natural Water Retention Measures.

A completion date of summer 2021 has been given for these projects.

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.