Mountmellick residents attended the first public engagement day this Wednesday November 13 to share their views on a flood relief scheme for the town.
Almost two years since the town was hit by unprecedented floods, work is starting to plan permanent flood defences.
JBA Consulting is engaged by Laois County Council to lead the project, with the council setting up a capital projects office to drive it on, led by engineer and project manager Paul McLoughlin.
"The OPW had a proposal of flood walls and embankment prior to the 2017 event but hadn't put funding to it. The flood was greater than expected. We estimate 88 properties were directly impacted. The scheme needs to be reviewed and expanded. It had walls up to 1metre high and 600m long, and embankments 1800metres long. These could be extended given the 2017 flood and climate change," he said.
Funding of €3.2 million announced in May 2018 is expected to increase, while the €5.6 million budget for Portarlington, some 6 months behind Mountmellick in plans, is also expected to increase.
Among the public coming to see plans and give views, was Maurice Lynch, whose childhood home on O'Moore Street remains uninhabitable.
"I don't see why it's taken so long to do a tender process. It's ludicrous. Our home place was wiped out and is still derelict. My brother-in-law had only renovated it before the flood. It's very upsetting," he said.
Derry Conlon has lived in Irishtown since 1972.
"I'd never seen floods as high. It came so quickly, but stopped at our gate, we were very lucky. I felt so sorry for The Hares Corner restaurant. We just want this work done as quickly as possible. People can't insure their houses. They are lying in fear it will come again," he said.
Mr McLoughlin said their office has given some 60 homes a grant for flood barriers. More grants are available by calling them on 8664157.
"Maintenance of rivers is on going. We clean gullies and if branches are washed down we remove them. We have pumps and sandbags and crews on standby. We are as prepared as we can be. The timeline is to have the defence in place by the end of 2023," he said.
The next public engagement day in early summer 2020 will show a series of expanded design options.