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Clarecastle water barrage Photograph by John Kelly

Effectiveness of Ennis flood defences questioned again

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THE ability of Clarecastle’s coastal flood barrage, built in the middle of the last century, to protect Ennis and its surroundings needs to be examined “urgently” a local councillor has insisted.

Councillor Johnny Flynn has urged the local authority to prepare a report on the barrage in light of the current “climate crisis”, while renewing his call that the critical infrastructure be moved.

Senior Engineer Sean Lenihan has acknowledged that the barrage is a “key piece of infrastructure” saying the benefits of Ennis’ flood defence schemes “absolutely depends on a fully functioning and optimally fit for purpose barrage.”

The monthly meeting of the Ennis Municipal District heard that the council are in the process of commissioning engineers to prepare a brief for the appointment of experts to carry out a structural assessment of the barrage.

Speaking at the meeting Councillor Flynn outlined he was “very concerned” about the historic barrage which was designed and build in the mid 20th century to protect from flooding during high tides.

He believes rising sea levels and climate change means that the effectiveness of the structure needs to be looked at. And he made fresh calls for the structure to be moved to another location further down river.

The councillor urged that the Ennis Municipal District request Clare County Council, “to urgently prepare a report on the ability of the mid 20th century coastal barrage at Clarecastle to protect for the coming 100 years Ennis and its environs and essential public infrastructure from the effects of rising sea levels, storm surges, increased rainfall. This is in light of the current climate crisis and the recent report from World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) titled ‘United in Science Report’”.

Mr Lenihan told the meeting, “The council shares the members opinion on the critical nature of the Clarecastle Barrage to the town of Ennis and its environs.

“It is a key piece of infrastructure and is critical in protecting Ennis and the wider catchment from significant flooding.

“The importance of same has increased significantly in more recent years with the multimillion expenditure invested by the OPW in the various Flood Defence infrastructural schemes protecting the town, namely Ennis North, Ennis Lower and Ennis South. The benefit from these absolutely depends on a fully functioning and optimally fit for purpose barrage.”

He continued, “As a result of rising tides downstream and increased waters upstream due to climate change and other factors, it is imperative that the barrage operates at its maximum efficiency.

“The council is currently examining what improvements may be possible and necessary. These may include additional or larger valves that would be capable of discharging the upstream waters faster without of course having a negative downstream effect in terms of increased flood risk.

“To this end, the members will be aware that we are in the process of commissioning Punch Consulting Engineers to prepare a brief for the appointment of experts to carry out a structural assessment of the barrage.

“Based on the findings of same, we will be in further discussion with the OPW and our parent department regarding what works may need to be carried out and what measures are necessary to best prepare us for the future.”

He concluded by saying the council members would be kept informed of developments.

Councillor Flynn welcomed the response, asking that an assessment of the effectiveness of the barrage be included in the brief. Councillor Paul Murphy voiced his support for the motion.

Councillor Pat Daly commented, “The OPW spent millions on flood relief, it is important the barrage is upgraded, it is over 100 years old, the last thing we want is to see more water.”

Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy also spoke in favour of the motion and praised Councillor Flynn for his perseverance in raising the matter regularly.

Eamon O’Dea, senior executive engineer, stated the barrage is functioning and he confirmed that assessing the barrage will include examining its efficiency.

Mr O’Dea said that moving the barrage would involve “significant investment”. He stated that the existing structure will be examined and then the council will be able to identify any adjustments that are required.

“From there we will be in a position to have a detailed conversation with the Office of Public Works on what is appropriate,” he said.

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