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“UNBELIEVABLE and unreal” complications around the flood relief works at Claregalway have delayed construction of the ‘flood eye’ at the bridge but good progress is expected in the coming months, according to Galway County Council.

County Manager Martina Maloney announced a further €100,000 has now been allocated for projects around the county to avoid a repeat of last year’s devastating floods.  As part of this latest round of works, over €47,000 will be spent to widen an existing channel and install a new culvert at Portumna.

So far this year €700,000 has been drawn down from the Office of Public Works (OPW), compared to a maximum €60,000 for any year before now, which was an indication of the work that has been carried out ahead of the one-year anniversary, Ms. Maloney told this week’s county council meeting.

However, concerns were expressed by several councillors about the pace of the work, particularly in Claregalway, Oranmore and Peterswell, where representatives said they had yet to see a single OPW worker.

Work was scheduled to begin in September on a flood eye at the bridge in Claregalway, which would add an additional channel on one side of the river to allow backed-up flood water flow under the bridge and on to Lough Corrib more easily.

Frank Gilmore, director of services for roads, transportation, housing and emergency services, said the amount of complications for the Claregalway project was “unbelievable and unreal”.

It was home to an important archaeological site as well as a massive bridge with a 28m span and a dense population. There were 160 items on the programme management chart for the operation which had to be addressed.  Two bridges to keep traffic flowing while the work was undertaken had been ordered. The full scheme was to be the subject of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

“It’s going ahead … I expect good progress to be made there,” Mr. Gilmore told this month’s county council meeting.

In relation to the work in Ballinasloe, Kevin Kelly, director of services for corporate and cultural affairs, said tenders had been received but not yet awarded.

Ms. Maloney said €300,000 had been ring-fenced for Oranmore but the OPW were faced with the same constraints as the council when it came to the staff embargo.

She said she was “absolutely certain” of their commitment to do the project but accepted “they haven’t been able to get everywhere”.

Minister for the OPW Martin Mansergh announced a €8 million programme of flood relief and prevention works recommended by a joint OPW/Galway Co. Council Working Group.

Rivers burst their banks and caused severe flooding across South Galway – worst hit was Ballinasloe, Portumna, Craughwell, Claregalway and Abbeyknockmoy.  The absence of any comprehensive drainage programme of the main rivers in recent years was one of the main causes.  Studies are going to be carried out on the Dunkellin River, River Clare, River Suck and River Shannon to determine their part in the severe flooding.

Denise McNamara