Imprisoning Cork




From top: Save Cork activists demonstrate the visual impact of the OPW’s flood relief scheme for Cork; Dan Boyle

Do not raise the walls. Do not replace the walls. Do not replace the historic rods and bollards that allow for maximum interaction with the river. Do not robs us of the character of those places where we have sported and played.

Dan Boyle writes:

I’ve written dozens submissions to State bodies down through the years. These have tended to be technical in nature, sent with no real faith that they would ever be taken seriously. When the OPW recently sought submissions on its proposals to curb flooding in Cork, I thought it might be novel to tell them what I really thought.

As part of the ongoing public consultation on this issue, I would like to add my concerns to what is being proposed. In the first instance, I feel the scope of what is being examined is insufficent. A flood plan needs to be constructed for the River Lee in its entirety.

The main elements of such a plan should be maximise the use of the natural features that help counter flooding risks. Chief among these would be immediate identification of whatever flood plains, along the route of the river, have not been built upon, insisting that no development can occur in these locations. Large scale planting of trees alongside, or as close as possible to river banks, offers a low tech response to reducing water levels.

These measures should be put in place before any engineering approach is considered. It is this emphasis on engineering, over engineering, that makes what is being proposed for this relief scheme so unacceptable.

There is almost a soullessness in these proposals. What is being suggested is insensitive to the character of Cork City. It ignores the special position of the river in the history and culture of the city. Famed in song and story as it were.

Even as ‘solutions’ these engineering approaches have hardly inspired. Reduced to its most simple essense, the OPW seems to be saying to the people of Cork City (and the business owners within the city centre), that the quay walls need to be raised to deal with the immediate risk of flooding, but such raising would only be an intermediate step, with flexibility being sought to raise these walls even further to counter medium and longer term risks.

This is band aid risk management. This is a problem which requires a more serious approach than that.

Imprisoning the river is not a solution. Technology has developed to identify more effective, less intrusive methods of dealing with the threat of flooding.

The continual opposition of the OPW towards constructing a barrage in the lower harbour, has been baffling.

Throwing out top of the head/back of an envelope figures suggesting that a barrage would cost between €500million to €1billion to construct, has been entirely dishonest. It is insulting to claim that degree of variance exists for a single piece of public infrastructure. It is obviously just a figure thrown out there to discourage its serious consideration.

There is an onus to provide an honest costing. There is also a responsibilty to provide an independent cost benefit analysis. Part of such an honest analysis would be to place the potential a barrage could play in the generation of renewable energy.

By all means strengthen the quay walls. Their maintenance has been neglected for far too long. Do not raise the walls. Do not replace the walls. Do not replace the historic rods and bollards that allow for maximum interaction with the river. Do not robs us of the character of those places where we have sported and played.

There are dozens of other technical and environmental arguments that can, and I know are being made. This is a personal overview. I am hoping that this is a real consultation, where concerns are listened to, and then get acted upon. That will result in a new plan.

A publicly acceptable plan, an environmentally sensitive plan, a plan that truly cherishes a river that is so much a part of us.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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48 thoughts on “Imprisoning Cork

  1. Brother Barnabas

    Who are they trying to fool with the height of that wall? It’s obvious that they’re all crouching down to try and make it look bigger. The eejit on the left would want to get with the program.

  2. Zeno

    For once in my life I am in total agreement with Dan Boyle. This OPW plan is absolutely insane. This is nearly up their with plans in the 60s to demolish Georgian Dublin.

  3. DavidT

    Farmers draining fields excaerbate flooding downstream.

    Trees! I planted alder in a boggy spot behind my house and…lovely trees with no bogginess. It works.

  4. Nigel

    At this point it’s well known how flooding works and what the best and most effective methods to deal with them are, which generally get completely ignored in favour of short-term stuff that inevitably makes things worse. It isn’t as if we don’t get painfully destructive and costly reminders every frgging year. A few years ago I was at a talk on SUDS, the system that planners and county councils were supposed to be adopting – it’s simple and effective and makes complete sense (you retain water in special ditches instead of sending it rushing downstream as quickly and destructively as possible, releasing it slowly as the water level drops) and does not require massive walls and barriers. Dan’s solution here makes sense. Why would you reject it in favour of a bunch of stupid walls when you could actually reduce the size and frequency of the flooding itself?

  5. DubLoony

    Alders evolved to grow in boggy areas. Their roots are matted and can be used to prevent soil erosion. they filter out soil particles to prevent silting of rivers.
    Their wood is used for locks because it doesn’t rot in water.
    Similarly, willow hoovers up water. It can be coppiced to provide firewood and also used in traditional crafts if anyone wants to revive basket making! Down by the sally gardens…

    We need to plant massive amounts of native broad-leaf trees.

      1. David

        The alders we planted have kept the bogginess that was there away, year round. I suspect they’ve improved drainage of the soil as much as having soaked up water.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Loony. you are not wrong. Concrete isn’t always the solution – and I agree with the plantation of large numbers of broad leaf trees. However, none of that would cost ‘billuns ‘, where’s the incentive for those who must have their slice? A cost effective, environmentally positive solution – don’t think that will wash. :-(

  6. ollie

    Good article Dan. Consideration should also be given to relocating housing from flood plains along the Lee, and to creating new flood plains.
    The Netherlands manage by facilitating the water, not building walls.

    1. Kieran Nice Young Chap

      “The Netherlands manage by facilitating the water, not building walls.”

      What would dykes be then?

        1. Sheik Yahbouti

          But, deluded, that wouldn’t allow for a perfectly good poster expressing an honest view. The Dutch built dykes, but they also have a profound understanding of water – its properties and its behaviour.

          1. Kieran Nice Young Chap

            Ah jeez Sheik lighten up – I was making a joke.

            You’re very negative and fatalistic these days. Cheer up. It’s not good for you.

            Have a good long weekend! =]

    1. DubLoony

      If a river needs to be dredged, it must also be investigated why its silting up.
      Poor soil quality, lack of organic material in it means that water goes straight through rather than being soaked up like a sponge.

      With climate change, we can expect more rain in some areas. If that is coupled with poor soil & treeless landscape, the effects will be worse.

    2. geansai

      Dredging the river only works to alleviate fluvial (river) flooding in non-tidal areas. Cork city centre is tidal so it would have very little effect.

    1. DubLoony

      Yes, we need techniques that regenerate soil.
      Its not enough to just irrigate with aquifer water, that will just bring up salt over time.

  7. Zeno

    It should be noted that Cork’s flooding is largely tidal hence the idea of a downstream Tidal Barrage like Belfast.
    Water doesn’t just flow over quay walls it comes up through the ground and drains.

    But there has been massive drainage works done in the Lee and Bandon valleys for sure.

    1. LW

      Yeah, I thought water coming up the drains was a big problem? With streets built over former waterways, I can’t see how big walls at the river bank are going to solve the whole problem

  8. bisted

    …I don’t have any recent engagement with Cork Corporation but they used to have excellent engineers and particular expertise in river management…Cork was also home to some world class consulting engineering practices.
    Whatever the solution it will be implemented by engineers and given the lead they will produce cost-efficient exquisite solutions.
    Whatever the problem, there will usually be some gobshite politician making expedient, self-serving decisions involved…

    1. Zeno

      This is an OPW plan not Cork Corpration. It isn’t just this ex-politician (who I have never had any time for) it is many businesses in the city, many architects and engineers and just many people who live in the city.

      Cork was or is indeed home to some world class engineering practices, they were largely engaged with pharmaceuticals. Are you suggesting the came up with this plan on behalf of the OPW?

      Blind faith in engineers is about as useful as blind faith in politicians.

        1. Zeno

          If that is you Dan Boyle…and I am happy to believe it is. You were a career politician with a National profile so I don’t see it as pompous to have an opinion on your public persona. That is based on your political track record. It is only fair to add that this shouldn’t be taken as any slight on your private persona. I am sure you are a decent and well intended person. So apologies if I gave offense.

      1. ollie

        Zeno, I’ve read your post thrice (3 times), and I still can’t understand your rambling musings.
        However, I’m sure you mean well, even if you are not well meaning.

  9. Dan Boyle

    The scheme is being proposed by the OPW. Cork Corporation is now Cork City Council (and has been for the past 16 years). There is widespread unhappiness with what is being proposed. A stick is a stick I suppose. Although I do bow to your expertise in being able to identify Gobpoos.

      1. bisted

        …yeah, I had trouble with that word as well…I knew you would much prefer being called that than gobpoo

        1. Dan Boyle

          You can call me whatever you like. I’ll always be aware of how much thought you give to these things.

          1. bisted

            …thanks Dan…and on mature reflection it was Cork Co Council I had some dealings with but it was that long ago. Dublin Corporation was the powerhouse in the capital but in Cork, Waterford, the Corpo title didn’t mean much.
            In my experience, Co Councils and Government bodies like OPW, NRA did only minor work in-house and anything major would require exterior consultants. If this is purely an OPW initiative then they are not taking it very seriously…step up from sandbags…

          2. Sheik Yahbouti

            Nah, Dan. I, as an adult, have used the word beginning with sh to describe ordure. I have also used the word beginning with bol to describe utter tripe. However, these words were magically transformed into ‘poo poos’ and ‘boo boos’. Thus making me sound like a fractious toddler. I have complained about that fact, to no avail.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Think it through. If we can get Cork right, it might encourage all those Cork people helping to run Dublin to come home.

  10. Trig

    Dan Boyle there is no scientific basis that planting trees could possibly alleviate a 1 in 100 year flood at the downstream end of a catchment the size of the Lee. To suggest that this is a realistic solution is snake-oil salesmanship and ignores the reality of the situation in Cork. Cork experienced devastating river floods in 1789, 1853, 1875 and 1916. Look them up. Was a lack of trees or human error behind those floods?

    The tidal barrage being promoted by the group in the photo would have significant direct impact on the SPA and SAC in Cork harbour. Is that something that you support as a member of the Green Party?

  11. Dan Boyle

    Ah dear. I never said tree planting I said it was part of the solution. As regards your whataboutery on the barrage, any proposed infrastructure must be subject to a rigourous EIS. Seeing you’ve already made a pre-judgement, why should we even bother.

    1. Trig

      I simply ask you to find peer-reviewed scientific evidence that shows that tree planting would have a measurable effect in a catchment the size of the Lee.

      I haven’t made a prejudgement on the barrage. You know well that the EU habitats regs sets the rules for SACs/SPAs. A barrage that interferes with these areas is a non-starter when there is a viable alternative.

      Whataboutery cuts both ways. Alternatives proposed should be subject to scientific/engineering scrutiny too.

  12. Truth in the News

    Its quite simple control the tidal surge with a barrage and manage the two dams
    for flood control and not electricity generation, as to the walls, they will be like Trumps Great Wall… expensive folly:

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