Permanent flood defences needed for Coast Road

Seaweed on a gate in Oranmore last November indicates storm surge height (Photo: An Taisce)

Seaweed on a gate in Oranmore last November indicates storm surge height (Photo: An Taisce)

As temporary repairs to sea wall damage in Oranmore caused by November’s Storm Debi are completed this week, a local councillor has slammed delays and again called for permanent infrastructure.

Acknowledging recent local authority repairs to the roadside stonewalls and Oranmore train station fencing, the Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, Councillor Liam Carroll (Ind ), also welcomed a €312,000 allocation to resurface the R338.

Announced by Oranmore-based TD and government chief whip Hidegarde Naughton (FG ) last month as part of a €658 million fund for regional road upgrades, this money is ring-fenced to continue the ‘black top’ surface from the city boundary to Oranmore Railway Station, including the hard shoulder. Currently the county-city boundary is obvious, as motorists and cyclists feel a ‘bump’ when travelling into the rough-surfaced stretch maintained by Galway County Council.

Cllr Carroll, who recently quit Fine Gael after he was not selected as the party’s Oranmore local election candidate, has been highly critical of what he perceives as a lack of action over the past five months. He says he again discussed storm defences with the County Council chief executive Liam Conneally three weeks ago after Storm Kathleen. Carroll says he urged Conneally to apply to central government for flood defence funding, and that the rock armour similar to the coastline at Spiddal might be an appropriate response.

Last November, Storm Debi damaged a number of homes in the area, tore through 100m of seawall between Rinville and Oranmore, and destroyed 50m of thick stone walls along the R338 Coast Road near the train station. Large parts of the district, from Garraun South westward past Oranmore to Rinn, and south to Moneyduff and Rinville West are marked as ‘under review’ by the OPW’s strategic flood risk assessment maps (CFRAM ).

“This will need additional and substantial funding from central Government, which must be applied for without delay as [one] townland in question, Garraun, is a strategic area for development in the 2022-2028 Galway County Development Plan,” says Carroll. Garraun, the townland where the train station is located, is zoned for residential development for a further 1300 people, although Carroll says most housing will be north of the railway embankment, away from floodland.

Although US space agency NASA does not calculate sea level rises for Galway as part of its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC ) calculations, it does for Dublin, with rises of 0.7m (more than 2ft ) expected with “high confidence” by 2120. At 5am on Monday, November 14, 2023, Storm Debi set a new high-water record of 2.774m (more than 9ft ) at the OPW’s automated gauge at Oranmore bridge.

An Taisce spokesman Peter Butler last year warned that Galway is yet to experience a “perfect storm”. This can occur if a slow-moving, Atlantic low pressure system hits Galway Bay pushing a large storm surge ahead of it, after approximately two weeks of heavy rain floods the Corrib. If this happens at peak lunar tide – usually each April and September – flood levels could break current records. So far recent storms have only ticked one of these three boxes.

“With sea levels rising each year because of climate change [and] melting icebergs, the impact in future years will be even worse than what we have seen before,” Butler said in a statement.

 

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