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'People's hearts are broken by the thought of this': Cork locals launch their own flood defence plans

The group Save Cork City is launching the plans this evening.

Image: William Murphy/Flickr/CC

A GROUP CAMPAIGNING against flood relief proposals for Cork city have developed their own flood defence plans.

Save Cork City launched the plans this evening, which offer an alternative to the Lower Lee (Cork City) Flood Relief Scheme, which aims to combat the devastating floods that the city has been prone to.

The group’s members say that the so-called “Lee wall” will have a severe negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and economy of the city.

The OPW plan includes bridge replacement, pumping stations, walls and embankments downstream of Inishcarra Dam through to Cork Harbour as a defensive measure, and the designation of floodplains upstream of Cork city.

It would also include a new flood forecasting system and a flood warning system.

The Save Cork City members have claimed the plan will “turn the city into a building site for up to 10 years during the construction works, affecting trade and tourism in the city”.

John Hegarty, one of the members of Save Cork City, told TheJournal.ie that they were informed the OPW has received over 1,000 submissions from members of the public on the plan.

“We expect that many of them are on our side and we want to thank anyone that took the time to write,” said Hegarty this evening. “It’s an incredible number, it’s quite close to being without precedent. And many of the submissions would have been by groups. We couldn’t be happier.”

The final date has passed for submissions.

“People’s hearts are broken by even the thought of this,” he said of the plan. “[It shows] people’s connection to the river and the story of the city as it is connected to the river.”

It’s actually overwhelming to us the amount of support that is just based on Corkonians’ love for the city.

Hegarty said that the group hopes that the OPW will read their plan, which will be on the Save Cork City website tomorrow.

“Our plan is to build a tidal barrier and manage the city as a whole better and respect the quays in the city – and the OPW we know have incredible abilities and could be heavily involved in carrying out [the changes],” he said.

The three main parts of the plan are:

  • Building a tidal barrier at Little Island, which would have a gate that can be closed to protect the city from tidal surge.
  • Repair of the quayside landscape, including the quay walls and walkways.
  • Slowing the flow of the river, through tree planting, wetland restoration, water diversion, reinstatement of ditches and alteration of land drainage methods. This would aim to reduce the flow of water into the city.

In the plan, they say:

The Save Cork City solution has come about from the recognition that what makes Cork special is extremely fragile. Proposals for flood relief walls may represent a final tipping point in Cork’s future that would see much of the city’s character and potential lost forever. Save Cork City believes that now is the time to reassess how we treat the extraordinary asset that is the historic landscape, and in particular the quayside landscape, of Cork City before it is too late to do so.

They say their plan would help to improve the local environment, have minimal to no effect on traffic in the city centre, create tourism potential and would protect the Docklands and Tivoli areas.

They also say that the barrier could be built within four years. Because the River Lee is 95km long, they say that this gives “great opportunity for flood relief measures to be located outside the built-up and highly populated historic city of Cork”.

Incredible response

During their campaign, Hegarty said they have received an “incredible” response. “We are overwhelmed by the support – people really want to find a solution that will help to save the city centre and not alter it so dramatically, and they want to find a solution that doesn’t mean six or 10 years of construction in the city centre.”

He said that “in the hearts and minds of the people they love the city”.

The group met Cork City Council this week, and showed them the plan.

“We’d been working for months on the plan,” said Hegarty. “We’ve been talking to people literally all over Europe. Particularly in Cork we have professionals who have done a lot of research in relation to flood relief proposals in the UK and Holland. We’ve spoken to people in Holland about how they manage large scale flood relief systems and how they interact with their public.”

There are about 10 core members of Save Cork City, and Hegarty said that they are “from completely across the spectrum” of the community and receive support from many others. “It’s from any walk of life and any part of the city and any part of the world,” he said.

In April, the OPW told TheJournal.ie that once all submissions are considered, it would “consider how best to move forward with the process”.

It also said that a plan would be drawn up with a view to submitting the scheme for confirmation to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform towards the end of the year.

- Contains additional reporting by Cormac Fitzgerald

Read: ‘Save Cork city’: Locals are banding together to stop walls being built on the River Lee>

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