Port Maria flooding in the spotlight again
A preliminary study done on the St Mary capital of Port Maria suggests that widening of the channel through which the Outram River flows could be the solution to the flooding problems faced by the town.
However, several businesses, homes, churches and other community buildings line the area, and so widening the channel would result in a major change in the parish capital, which could have social and economic implications for the once flourishing banana parish.
Making a presentation at the monthly meeting of the St Mary Parish Council last Thursday, National Works Agency senior civil engineer Howard Prendergast said that no matter how much work is carried out in the town, flooding will continue to affect the area unless matters related to the Outram River are addressed.
He said that studies have shown that by widening the channel through which the river flows, the flooding could stop.
However, widening the channel could have several implications, as there are businesses and houses located in the area. As a result, he pointed out that other studies would be required, as there are social and economic implications.
The study of Port Maria forms part of a master drainage study carried out in several high-risk areas across the island by the NWA, in a bid to reduce or eliminate flooding in these areas.
During his presentation on Thursday, Prendergast pointed out that the present channel taking water from the Outram River to the sea was inadequate.
"We would have to widen the Outram River. It significantly needs to be widened," he said, although he cited Port Maria as a "sensitive case".
The widening and straightening of the channel could prevent flooding in the town, he said.
Prendergast further explained that the flooding situation in Port Maria has to be fought from three fronts: the sea, the Outram River and the Paggee River.
Based on the study conducted, he pointed out that a dyke system is proposed for the Paggee area to prevent the river from flowing out of its natural channel. When the river flows outside its natural channel it is said to meet with the Outram River, thus creating problems for the town.
With the town of Port Maria below sea level, the storm surges have also contributed to its flooding.
According to Prendergast, if there is a storm surge of as little as two metres, flooding is possible.
The studies conducted have also revealed that the internal drainage system of the town needs to be addressed. However, that alone cannot be expected
to solve the problem, Prendergast said.
"Whatever you do internally, the Outram River needs to be addressed," Prendergast insisted.
"If the Outram River is not addressed, work being done internally is a waste of time," he added.
Major changes would also have to be done to correct flooding in another St Mary town of Annotto Bay for the long term.
The senior engineer
also pointed out that flooding in Annotto Bay will also have to be tackled in a similar fashion.
The Motherford Drain needs to be widened, the study has shown. A system for dykes has also been proposed for the Annotto Bay area. This, Prendergast pointed out, would confine waters to their natural drainage areas.
He also said that there is a tidal influence on the Motherford Drain, and so systems will have to be implemented to reduce this.
Controlled detention areas are suggested in some areas.
While the main aim is
to control flooding in
both areas of St Mary, Prendergast said that water harvesting would also be a part of the process.
While the St Mary Parish Council welcomed the report, councillors made it clear that they were tired of the many studies being done, yet no action had
Councillor for the Port Maria division, Trecia Harris Smiley said that numerous studies had highlighted that the Outram River is the
main cause of flooding, yet nothing is being done.
"I believe Port Maria is like nowhere to everyone," she said. The councillor said that she believes that if it was another area, the situation would have been dealt with more speedily.
Councillor Richard Creary of the Richmond Division raised concerns as to whether or not local people were contacted during the study before proposed solutions were drafted. He also went on to ask where the money would be coming from to carry out the projects being proposed.
While the widening of the river is suggested, Chairman of the St Mary Parish Council and Mayor of Port Maria Levan Freeman said that other avenues should
be considered. The Mayor pointed out that the last time the river was dredged, there was no flooding in the town for over 20 years.
Mayor Freeman also pointed out that some of the small drains leading into the river were not constructed properly and so made it difficult for water to run into the river during flooding.
Deputy Mayor and Councillor for the Highgate Division Paul Fyffe also supported the idea that other measures be sought. He pointed out that deepening the channel, rather than widening, was an option.
Fyffe said that the removal of silt from the river may help stop flooding.
In the meantime, Prendergast said that other possibilities were presented in the study, and also asked the councillors to present their suggestions. However, he noted that at the end of the day, actions depended
on the availability of the financial resources.
In the meantime, Councillor Dane Golding of the Annotto Bay Division, who acknowledged plans to reduce flooding in the Annotto Bay area, pointed out that the beach in the town continues to erode and said that that should also be taken into consideration.