The flood relief schemes for Graignamanagh and Thomastown might not go ahead as planned if the cost turns out to be much higher than expected.
This could mean further winters of sandbags and distress, with homes and businesses stuggling to secure insurance and no relief in sight in the medium term.
It was thought that both projects would be covered by an Office of Public Works (OPW) scheme of projects costing up to €500,000, but both of them might now cost much more. If so, they will not be included in the current programme and could have to wait years to be done.
The problem is that, while it was hoped both schemes could involve changes to the quay walls, it now turns out this might not been the case.
Although this “was flagged as a possible issue” when designs of both schemes were begun, the water levels were not able to be monitored in enough detail first due to the inclement weather at this time last year and then relatively low water levels this year until recently.
The flood relief works planned for Inistioge and Piltown are not affected because they are progressing under separate schemes.
“Once we knew this funding programme was available, we installed boreholes in the quays in Graignamanagh and Thomastown to monitor the water levels,” senior council engineer Simon Walton explained to members at the Thomastown electoral area meeting on Monday.
Data has now emerged about the surface water and ground water levels, indicating that just putting in flood walls or embankments might not be sufficient to stop any flooding. The council now has to determine exactly what works will be required and what they will cost.
“The likelihood, or one possibility, is that the works that will be identified will render the scheme ineligible under the OPW programme (of projects up to €500,000). That would put it back into the remit of the OPW,” Mr Walton told the members. “We have to investigate the works required before we will be in a position that we can categorically state that we can run with this.”
In Kilkenny city, for example, the flood relief works required sheet piles to be driven into the ground as far as the bedrock to prevent the ground water from the land mixing with the surface water of the river.
Cllr Sean Treacy (FF) called the news “disappointing”, adding: “The way I see it now, we are looking at a multi-million euro scheme.”
“That is very possible,” Mr Walton said.
“This programme, while it is very welcome, does involve a significant transfer of risk from the OPW to the local authorities. While the OPW funds the scheme, the local authority becomes responsible for its maintenance,” Mr Walton said. And if future issues arise in any of the schemes, “the burden of that will fall on the local authorities. That is something the council needs to give careful consideration to.”
“I can’t say for certain at the minute, but the likelihood is that the current design is insufficient to solve the problems (in Thomastown and Graignamanagh),” Mr Walton said.