During the past week I have noticed that the level of the water in the Rampart River is as low as it has been in many years.
I have no figures to hand but would guess that the must be as little flow in the stretch from the Long Avenue down to Mill Street as was there during the last really hot summer of 1976.
Much of that stretch is underground now but where it is visible, I could make out the stones in the bed of the stream sitting out the water. Maybe somebody will contradict me about this and point out that it was much worse at times in the past but I feel that this is a recipe for disaster.
Without intending to be too critical, as much of that stretch is looking well and a credit to the authorities in charge of the town, but at the moment I feel that much of the steam is like an open sewer.
Chocked with weeds and parts of it filled with rubble and litter, when ( not if) heavy rains come along there is bound to be flooding along its course as a result.
Speaking to Councillor Mark Deary of the Green Party about the drainage situation for the whole of the Dundalk area I was not encouraged.
I must admit that I did not understand much of what he had to tell me but the message that came through was that it was going to take a lot of money to put things right and that much of the problem was due to neglect of this essential service for the town since the start of the millennium.
It seems that the Rampart Stream is only a small part of the problem and one of the figures he quoted shocked me.
It seems that a report from the Office of Public Works, complied over the course of recent years, suggests that it would take something in the region of €40 million to put things right. Where are we going to get that sort of money?
Another figure he quoted was equally shocking, apparently some insurance survey has suggested that there could be claims amounting to as much as €100 million should there be bad flooding through the town and area. This does not take into account the damage that could be done to to the environment, not to mention that harm that would ensue for ordinary peoples' health and safety. So, clearly something will have to be done soon to try to avoid a local disaster!
Another thing which Mark told me, which was news to me, was that one of the suggestions put forward by the O.P.W. Report was that an embankment could be constructed at the headwaters of the Rampart River near the M.I. Motorway.
This might work but, apart from the cost, it would involve a lot of disruption for people living it the area and might even effect the Motorway, again at enormous cost and disruption. Even an embankment at this place might not prevent flooding along the Castletown River where many homes are now located.
All this probably will not happen in my lifetime but it was good to known that there are people like Mark Deary and many other local representatives and taking interest in the dangers that could arise from flooding in Dundalk and other parts of Louth in the not too distant future!
To get back to the present condition of the Rampart River something I learned from a former Urban Council worker was that, at the beginning of the present century, a builder's membrane was laid down along parts of the stream to prevent weeds growing and was reinforced in places by wooden supports of the banks. The problem is that this work was only intended to last for about twenty years --- and that period of time is nearly up!
The same person also told me that there are now under 30 labourers employed permanently by the Louth County Council in the entire county area, whereas there were once over 100 men employed by the Dundalk Urban Council alone, when it existed.
Even casual workers employed by the County Council were laid off a couple of weeks ago because of the shortage of funding.
The sub-contracting of such work by the Council may have saved money in the short term but the town and county may have a heavy price to pay for it in the future!