THE idea of Shannon Airport being washed away by floods sounds like an Irish take on the disaster movie genre but, according to the Office of Public Works (OPW), if the cards fell in an unfortunate manner this year, more than €103 million worth of damage could be done.
While the scenario is unlikely, the OPW has found that, in the event of a once-in-a-thousand-year flood, 21 buildings at the airport would be at risk, with overall potential damages of €103,237,626. It also says in the event of a mid-range event, damage could be in the region of €174m, rising to €289m in a high-end future scenario.
In a statement this week, Shannon Airport said it is not overly worried about flooding but it is taking steps to protect what is a hugely important piece of regional infrastructure.
“In its 70 years of operation, Shannon Airport has never closed for flood-related issues. We are liasing with the OPW and Clare County Council on a solution to address any potential risk identified, as part of the OPW review of coastal flooding defences.”
The national Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) plan provides options for reducing risks in Shannon town and the airport area, including the construction of new flood defence walls with a total length of 4,810 metres, along with the construction of embankments with a length of 6,845m. Other options include the replacement of existing culverts.
While the risk to the airport is currently low, the CFRAM document does warn that flooding is set to become an even more significant problem. “It is likely that climate change will have a considerable impact on flood risk in Ireland.
“Sea level rise is already being observed and is projected to continue to rise into the future, increasing risk to our coastal communities and assets and threatening damage to, or elimination of, inter-tidal habitats where hard defences exist (referred to as coastal squeeze).
“It is projected that the number of heavy rainfall days per year may increase, which could lead to an increase in both fluvial and pluvial (urban stormwater) flood risk, although there is considerable uncertainty associated with projections of short-duration, intense rainfall changes due to climate model scale and temporal and spatial downscaling issue.”
The CFRAM document continued that “the projected wetter winters, particularly in the west of the country, could give rise to increased groundwater flood risk associated with turloughs”.
Two different options for the protection of both the town and the airport are provided for in the document, one costing €39.424m and the other €46.186m.
Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Sean Canney, said Shannon is not at serious risk.
“The way it is being reported is that the airport could be washed away. The airport has been there for a hell of a long time; it’s just that the risk of flooding is being reviewed and we have to make sure we put in flood defences to help it and to see when that can be done. It also has to meet a cost/benefit analysis, so there is a process to be gone through yet.”
Flood prevention/relief projects will be ongoing for years to come, Deputy Canney added.
“What’s happening at the moment is that the Draft CFRAMS proposals are being finalised to present to Minister Donohoe at the Department of Expenditure and Reform for his approval. The projects will be prioritised and carried out on a prioritised basis. It’s a 10-year programme. We started it last year and we have carried out some of the projects already,” he concluded.
By Owen Ryan