Several Shannonharbour residents are being left in a vulnerable situation and are anxious when they see the water levels of the Shannon rise, according to one local councillor.
In 2015, Shannonharbour was extensively flooded after the Shannon river levels rose significantly, leaving several homes damaged after the flood water receded. Following this flooding, a handful of residents were promised assistance to get them back on their feet.
However, two years down the road, a number of them had either to take measures themselves to protect their homes against future flooding without any departmental assistance, others have simply returned home while others have moved out of their homes and are residing in rented accommodation.
Cllr John Leahy has been working with some of the residents over the last number of years and last week, the 'Tribune' paid a visit to the Harbour to hear about some of the frustrations being experienced by these affected residents. “Extensive damage was done to a number of properties in the village. Some residents have taken measures themselves because of the failure of the department to engage with them properly, following the flooding in 2015. This includes raising floors and other measures in an effort to keep the water at bay if there's flooding again.”
With water levels rising in the fields behind, Cllr Leahy pointed out where the water levels were currently at. “These were also the fields that were extensively flooded back during the extensive flooding in 2015,” he noted. According to Cllr Leahy, the only measures put in place to address any future flooding was the installation of boulders. “But, the water has washed away the sand and these boulders are not concreted together so they are being pushed over. The water will come through again.”
Dealing with the residents over the last number of years, Cllr Leahy said some of the residents have decided not to move back into their home since the 2015 flooding. “It's the residents’ theory that there's no point moving back into their house in case the flooding comes again. And, where do they go then?”
“I was dealing with the department directly and they told me that if we could come up with preventative measures internally in the house, they [the Department] would seriously look at these proposals. A contractor was consulted in one case and the job was priced up. However, the residents decided because the Department was only giving them money to repair the damage caused to the house by the flooding in 2015 that they wouldn't return to the property.”
Cllr Leahy also pointed out in another case a home-owner simply went back into their home and repaired the damage caused. “Unfortunately, for them if the flooding comes again, the same thing is going to happen as what happened in 2015. I have been onto the Department about their cases and there was a promise of a relocation fund of €200,000 per home. Why would they spend that money on moving someone elsewhere when it would actually cost less to remedy the problem and put preventative measures in their homes.”
According to Cllr Leahy, his point for raising this issue was because he felt “nothing had been done to address this situation” other then install boulders and it's been ongoing for the last four years now. Asking him what he would like to see happen, the councillor said the first thing, outside of the measures, was to “look after the residents that are affected” and even if it did flood, they could stay in their homes. “They [the Department] could have made a better effort of securing their homes. I think for small money, there's an engineering solution to this and if the flooding comes down to the same levels of 2015 at least these houses would be safe and people remain there.”
John said the residents were anxious when they saw the water levels raising. “They are worried, which is understandable,” he added.
Meanwhile, the 'Tribune' visited the flooded homes and spoke with some of the residents about their experiences during the very distressing time in 2015. Speaking with the 'Tribune' this week, one resident said they personally felt “very let down” by the Department. “When the scheme was originally applied for 2017, we were told each case was unique but they sent out a generic letter of response. I feel they have not even read our applications and the fact that there are only a small number of residents and businesses affected and we are seen as being insignificant in comparison to larger towns where more people were affected.”
According to this resident, any correspondence or reply received in relation to this issue has to be initiated by them, by contacting the OPW office or writing to them. “The reply letter received stated there may be an engineering solution to the issue -a general letter with no reference to individual cases. We are very frustrated because in the three years since the flooding there has been no consultation or even information given to residents regarding what these measures or solutions may be or if they are going to prevent further flooding in the future. This causes a lot of anxiety as every year the area floods and we can see the water rising every day across the fields wondering will it happen again or will we have to put in another winter of watching anxiously to see if we need to get sandbags and protect our home? In 3 years there has been no sign or mention of engineering solutions. We feel left in the unknown, not knowing if we will be compensated or not knowing if the water is going to keep rising and flood like in previous years. We can’t plan for the future as we don’t know what the outcome of our application will be or if we need to keep the rainy day money to protect our homes and salvage them in the aftermath of another flood like 2016 with no insurance or assistance to help repair damages.”