Solutions to the road safety issues at the Ahare Bridge will soon be in place, but councillors are calling for more to be done about environmental concerns.
t the January Gorey Kilmuckridge Municipal District Meeting, Coastal Engineer with Wexford County Council, George Colfer gave a recap of the situation at the Ahare Bridge, saying that the main issues were “localised flooding” and “road safety”. He acknowledged that, historically, people in the locality cut the channel to the beach to release the water further upstream.
“However, in 2010, that was stopped on environmental and health and safety grounds.”
Mr Colfer explained that Engineering and Environmental Consultants Malachy Walsh carried out the flood risk assessment and the recommendation was that a flood warning system was introduced to prevent motorists from driving through the deep water.
Lack of capacity at the beach, lack of capacity at the bridge and lack of capacity at the channel between the bridge and the outfall were cited as the three main reasons for the flooding in order of significance.
Mr Colfer said that they have no plans to carry out any work at the beach. He said routine inspections would be carried out at the outfall by Wexford County Council and that a warning system would soon be put in place.
The warning system will see the installation of two signs, one on either approach to the bridge. When water reaches a certain level on the bridge, the lights will flash to warn motorists not to drive on. There is also an add-on option to alert Council staff by text when the road is flooded, and an option to continue to record the river level, explained Mr Colfer.
“The advance warning signs will look after the main concern which is traffic safety on a public road.”
Executive Engineer Joanne Kehoe said that she contacted the supplier of the signage company and will be meeting him next week on-site to finalise the quote. She said she expected work to begin in March due to the six to eight week lead time for the signs.
Councillor Joe Sullivan said that he was happy with the road safety aspect of the solution, but queried what would be done about the environmental aspect – the build-up of water and the need to release it.
“The road safety aspect is going to tell us the road is flooded. That means people need to detour. Do we want people doing detours all the time or do we want to take action so they won’t need to take detours?”
He asked the Environmental Section of Wexford County Council to seek solutions to this problem.
“I don’t think the Environmental Section can walk away, job done.”
Councillor Anthony Donohoe queried how useful the report was, and asked how much it cost to commission.
“We commissioned a report by a company to tell us we need to put signs at the side of the road,” he said. “That’s what we used to do when we had a bad bend.”
Councillor Diarmuid Devereux brought the attention of the members to a video on his phone, which depicted “hundreds of sea trout at the mouth of the Ahare River that can’t get up to spawn for the same reasons Councillor Sullivan mentioned”.
He suggested that information was passed from Wexford County Council to Inland Fisheries Ireland on matters like this.
“We need to do more. We need to open up the archways or whatever is necessary to help the water run smoothly.”
Constantly being waterlogged will cause damage to the bridge over time, added Cllr Sullivan.
“In the 1930s, we were far more practical than we are now. Now we are tied up with rules, regulations and directives,” said Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin, adding that cutting a channel was never considered a problem in the area a few decades ago.
“The other thing they were very good at doing back then is sowing trees. One of the best ways of helping to prevent flooding is afforestation as the trees soak up a huge amount of water.”
If trees were planted further up the river, it could help with the flooding issue by slowing down the flow of water, he added.
Mr Colfer told the councillors that the report cost “in the region of €6,000 or €7,000” and that this included extensive hydraulic modelling and surveys of the river and the bridge. He said that discussions have been had with Inland Fisheries Ireland and that these are referenced in the report. In response to calls to cut the channel, Mr Colfer said that “very stringent environmental legislation” that has been introduced means that what was once carried out in the area is no longer acceptable. Mr Colfer welcomed the idea of planting trees but stressed that they had to be the right trees in the right places.
“The Ahare River is dead and it is dead for the simple reason that the water can’t get to sea,” said Councillor Pip Breen. “The only solution to the Ahare River is that we open the mouth of it or we may resign to it being dead for the rest of time.”
Chairperson Councillor Donal Kenny acknowledged the changes in legislation, but urged the Council to consult local knowledge when seeking solutions if possible.
“It is very difficult with strict and stringent environmental legislation. We would have to get planning for it as well as it is a wetland. It is possible but it would be very difficult. That is why we got a report,” responded Mr Colfer.
Reflecting on the video Cllr Devereux shared, Cllr Donohoe queried whether Wexford County Council should be prosecuted for preventing the movement of these fish, saying that farmers are prosecuted for interfering with river systems.
“We are hindering their natural processes. Should we not be prosecuted?”
“We would be penalised and up on paper and paying heavy fines,” acknowledged Cllr Kenny.
Mr Colfer said that, through citizen science work, they could look further into these matters and what could be done.