It could take up to 10 years before alleviation measures identified by the Rivers Agency for potential flood risk hotspots in Drumahoe, Tullyally, Woodburn and Pennyburn almost two years ago, are completed, the Department for Infrastructre (DfI) has confirmed.
Amazingly for victims of the recent floods in the three former areas, which were all badly hit last week, the North Western Flood Risk Management Plan, published in December, 2015, prophesied that significant flooding events at the Burnagibbagh and Arnabrocky streams - both of which flow into the River Faughan near Altnagelvin, would cause hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to at least one hundred homes and businesses.
Experts projected that in a 1 in 100 year flood at the Burnagibbagh in Tullyally, 76 residential and 13 non-residential properties would be affected and around £409,788 of damage caused.
A flood of similar magnitude and rarity at the Ardnabrocky Drain at Drumahoe would affect four residential and six non-residential properties and cause damage of around £39,570, the plan stated.
This makes grim reading, for flood victims, in Tullyally, Drumahoe and Ivy Mead. Last week they endured that 1 in 100 year event. Though it was the Faughan itself which broke its banks, the fact that these areas were identified as particular hotspots will spark frustration.
The flood risk plan specifically recommended alleviation works be prioritised at the Ardnabrocky Drain, the Burnagibbagh, the Woodburn Park Stream and the Pennyburn Stream, due to the potential for serious damage.
Incidentally, the report also noted that if the Creggan burn was to flood disastrously in a 1 in 100 year event, 13 residential and 4 non-residential properties would be damaged at a cost of around £24,412 but this did not meet the threshold for a flood alleviation scheme.
At any rate the ‘Journal’ can today reveal that none of the flood protection measures listed above have been started yet.
DfI has advised the paperthat feasibility studies will be carried out between now and 2021.
After that it will likely take between two to five years, depending on financial resources before the works are completed.
In a statement, DfI Rivers Agency confirmed: “At the end of 2015 DfI Rivers developed Flood Risk Management Plans as required by the EU Floods Directive. Twenty significant Flood Risk Areas, including Londonderry, were identified as part of this process.
“The next stage in the process, which runs up to 2021, is to undertake detailed feasibility studies on any potential scheme identified for the city, subject to available resources.”
SDLP MLA Mark Durkan said that the heavy flooding across the North West brought into stark focus the importance of a functioning Assembly.
Referring to the Rivers Agency’s 2015 recommendations regarding the Waterside in particular, he said: “While it was absolutely shocking for people who suffered such massive damage last week, unfortunately it wasn’t really a surprise , as engineers had actually identified and predicted many of the flooding hot spots in their 2015 report.”
Mr. Durkan said ministers need to be put in place to take responsibility for perceived inaction.
“As local people struggle to rebuild their homes and businesses, they are met with obstacle after obstacle.
“The scenes of devastation and the stories of desperation are harrowing as people try to rebuild their lives. More can and more should be done.”
Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney said: “Last week’s flooding was unprecedented with many areas of Derry, Donegal and Tyrone being hit very hard.
“People are beginning the long process of cleaning-up and rebuilding and we need to ensure every possible assistance is provided to them.
“That will require a robust and concerted approach across several different government departments.”
“In the wake of the floods all agencies need to look at all areas that may be at risk to flooding and put in place whatever measures they feel necessary in the short, medium and long term.”
Miles downstream of Drumahoe, where the Faughan meets the Foyle, large scale cereal farmer David Butler is still picking up the pieces after up to 80 acres of his grain was submerged in the flooding last week.
Mr. Butler, of Enagh Farms, on the Temple Road, has lost thousands of pounds worth of wheat and barley and has been left with a clean-up nightmare when he should be preparing to reap a bumper harvest.
“It’s soul destroying,” said Mr. Butler, showing the ‘Journal’ pictures of grain fields that look more like rice paddies.
“It’s not hundreds of pounds, it’s thousands of poudns worth of flood damage.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to flood damage you’re not insured when it comes to crops.”
He praised many of the agencies, the Ulster Farmers’ Union, and local SDLP representatives, that helped with the clean-up.
Mr. Butler said he has never seen a flood of this magnitude in his lifetime although some older residents remember the River Faughan overtopping to similar catastophic effect long ago.
“We’re just sort of mopping up and surveying what the damage is now,” he said.
Mr. Durkan suggested a functioning Assembly would be able to do more to help Mr. Butler and residents and businesses upstream coping with the aftermath of the floods.
“The criteria for the boiler replacement scheme may be too stringent for all those affected to apply, but a minister and Assembly could and should be examining how we can help all those affected to avail of this support.
“While the Emergency Financial Assistance Scheme for flood victims is in place, it doesn’t extend to local businesses and community organisations.
“This is something the SDLP has already asked all Party Leaders to agree to so that support could reach non-domestic properties,” concluded Mr. Durkan.