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Spot flooding on the Tulla road in Ennis. Photograph by John Kelly.

Warning over use of screens to counter Clare flood threat

CONCERNS about the risk of flooding on the Tulla Road, close to the site of a proposed €1.2 billion Ennis data centre, have prompted calls for screens to be put in place at bridges to prevent blockages, writes Jessica Quinn.

However, while council executive engineer Barry Conway has confirmed the local authority will carry out maintenance and clearance works, he cautioned about the use of screens.

The engineer said that screens “can often times create bigger issues than they resolve”, citing recent “devastating consequences” when screens were installed in Dublin and Donegal.

Flooding at Aughavadda on the Tulla Road and Gaurus Bridge was highlighted by Councillors Johnny Flynn and Mary Howard at the monthly meeting of the Ennis Municipal District.

Councillor Flynn pointed to “historic” flooding of R352 Tulla Road and previous river flow blockages/restrictions at Aughavadda bridge and concern about the river flow capacity at the downstream Gaurus bridge.

He urged the Ennis Municipal District to “immediately” provide screens to prevent blockages resulting in restriction of flow of the Ballymachill river at these bridges.

The councillor recalled that wheelie bins and water butts have been among the items which have ended up causing blockages.

Councillor Flynn, who has lodged a submission to Clare County Council’s planning office in relation to the planned data centre, insisted that the screens are essential to protect from flood risk.

Councillor Mary Howard called on the council to assess the stream at Aughavaddy, saying there is evidence of dumping.

“This stream floods on a regular basis due to constrictions in the flow of the culvert, often causing ponding/flooding on the main road.

“Is it possible to schedule regular cleaning of the culvert as there is also evidence of dumping in the stream thus blocking the two pipes which are approximately only three feet in diameter.”

She recalled how sandbags were deployed during flooding in 2009.

“This is an important body of water and needs to be kept clear,” she said. “If you go up there on a day like today it is lovely, it’s totally harmless but in rain like we saw in 2009 it becomes a torrent of water.”

She said that there are concerns locally about the possibility of further flooding, particularly with plans for the proposed data centre in the vicinity.

Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Ann Norton interjected and told the councillors that the data centre is currently undergoing the planning process.

“Due to the fact that this is planning permission that is going through we have to be careful and concentrate on the motion,” she said.

Councillor Howard replied, “I am not a civil engineer, I don’t know what effect it will have but something proposed up the road has caused worry for them.”

Mr Conway confirmed that the Ennis Municipal District roads crews will arrange to inspect and carry out maintenance/clearance works at both the upstream and downstream sides of both bridges prior to the winter months and arrange to implement a regular inspection schedule throughout the winter.

He continued, “The installation of screens is a matter that needs careful consideration as they can often times create bigger issues than they resolve.

“This is of particular concern in times of high intensity rainfall which can mobilise large quantities of relatively small debris which can clog the screens.

“There have been recent examples of this happening in Donegal and Dublin with devastating consequences.”

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