Council to call on Harris to back community-led flood defences

Kilkenny County Council is to call on the Minister with responsibility for the OPW to consider ringfencing funding for the development of community-led flood defence projects, involving catchment and ecological solutions.

It follows a Notice of Motion brought by Councillor Malcolm Noonan (Green Party) at Monday's meeting, which received the backing of the other members present. Not for the first time in a meeting of Kilkenny County Council this year, a number of local councillors were critical of the OPW's response to the flooding issue so far.

Cllr Noonan's motion urges Minister of State Simon Harris to set aside a portion of Capital monies for flood defence schemes towards local community-led projects. The Green Party spokesperson on the Environment said that ‘soft’ engineering solutions existed which represent value for money, are ecologically sound and give ownership to local communities – in particular the farming community – to solutions.

He said also that local knowledge and stewardship was critical to successful projects in other countries.

“Minister Harris has committed almost half a billion euro to flood defence schemes to ‘manage’ floods better,” said Cllr Noonan.

“But what we are witnessing is unprecedented. It’s too early to say whether it is caused by climate change but climate scientists are saying that the likelihood of such events is now eight times higher than it has been in the past, so we have to prepare and prepare fast.”

Cllr Noonan told the Kilkenny People that, with the best will in the world, getting flood defence schemes from planning to construction could take many years.

“Over the past week, I have met with river ecologists, conservationists and statutory agencies,” he said.

“We see merit in using natural attenuation, planting of broadleaf trees, natural revetment and other less intensive projects as being viable. We need to restore natural ecosystems and habitats and work with nature.

“But communities must have ownership of projects. Our farming community is vital in this regard and if Government were willing to tweak the GLAS Agri Environment Scheme to fund local projects then it will give revenue to farmers and future proof their lands from degradation.

The Green Party councillor said that the CFRAMS Study offered an opportunity to identify where projects might be feasible, but that it was important to start small on tributary rivers of larger rivers.

“This is not a panacea but it can do no harm and is ecologically far superior to flood defence schemes in urban areas,” he said.

The council is now urging the Government to give serious consideration to the proposal to help foster a new stewardship of the environment that builds community resilience into the future.