Proposed George’s Dock White Water Centre Development
Published on 18th January 2021
It was decided to initiate the tender process to get a more realistic cost estimate. While the tender process in underway we will seek to confirm external funding for the project.
A final decision can then be made on whether or not to proceed with the project. No additional Council funding can be allocated to the project and no additional borrowing can be undertaken without the approval of the Elected Members.
The development will comprise of the following:
- A Swift Water Rescue Training (SWRT) Centre. This will be based around a floodable street with a mock rescue village. It will be used by Dublin Fire Brigade, other emergency services and certain local authority staff. It is essential, given the increase in severe weather flooding events that local authority and other emergency service staff can train for these events in controlled conditions with no water quality issues. The SWRT Centre is based on a recently commissioned ‘state of the art’ facility developed at the New York State’s Preparedness Training Centre in Utica, New York.
Greg O’Neill, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Dublin Fire Brigade has described the value of the SWRT Centre to Dublin Fire Brigade as follows:
‘The proposed George’s Dock Whitewater Centre will be an excellent resource for carrying out all NFPA and Rescue 3 International Swift Water Rescue Technician, Flood Responder and Water Awareness training course syllabi prerequisite activities. This includes defensive/aggressive swimming, live bait rescues, boat work, throw bagging, shallow water entries, channel crossing techniques, up-stream eddy hopping, and tensioned lines, all of which can be carried out safely in a controlled and clean water environment. There would be no better resource in Ireland for carrying out such water rescue training activities, than the proposed George’s Dock facility. Having the facility will negate the expense and time delays in travelling to several other live sites outside of Dublin, as Instructors will be able to simulate all their prerequisite activities at this one site.
The urban flooding streetscape will be the most unique feature of the facility as it will be a very realistic and probably the only practical way to simulate a sense of what a flooded street with fast moving water looks and feels like, but achieving it in a safe and controlled manner. The street itself gives all the usual features of curbs, steps, ramps, different surfaces, lamp posts, and railings to act as strainers etc. The mock houses will be constructed in such a way to allow for different rescue aspects and scenarios, with functioning doors, windows, stairs to upper levels, furniture, roof joists, attic spaces and pick-offs from external roofs etc. This whole street scape can be flooded with very realistic fast flowing water within minutes and more importantly can be very quickly shut off to stem the flow and leave a more controlled environment. When the streetscape is flooded it opens up to multiple rescue scenarios and configuration for rescues from houses, upper and lower floors, dealing with floating hazards, coping with strainers, finding eddies and anchor points for working upstream against the flow and boat/sked work etc.
In fast-flowing mode, the facility can create water cascading over a simulated low head damn or weir, which can be configured to adjust the power of the flow and subsequent hold of the stopper created, depending on the experience level of the students on the course. Again a unique feature which will allow a safer approach to what is normally a serious and difficult hazard to encounter on a live river, giving reassurance of a safe working environment in what would be normally a very unpredictable one.
An additional feature in this street scape facility is the drainage manhole cover displacement simulation, whereby a separate hydraulic off-chute feeds manhole covers, which when pressurized lift and displace to simulate flood pressurized city drains. These manholes are fitted with safety grills just below the surface, allowing an inattentive student to experience falling into this hazard, without dropping so far as to cause any injury. This is an excellent and safe method of exposing rescuers to this ever-present and real flood hazard in a controlled manner. While meeting all prerequisite course syllabus requirements of all NFPA and Rescue 3 courses, there are also other service specific additional Dublin Fire Brigade and national water rescue requirements, e.g. lock rescues etc. which this facility meets completely and safely.
The proposed Whitewater facility at George’s Dock, with the inclusion of the floodable streetscape facility, will be a unique and valuable asset to the Dublin and national fire and emergency services, in addition to all other emergency services, which could create multiple rescue training scenarios.’
- A white water course for rafting and canoeing. This is expected to be a major tourist attraction as well as catering for members of the public, business groups etc. The course will also be used as a training facility for elite slalom canoeists. This is an Olympic discipline which Ireland has over the years been represented in. The provision of tourism, and sporting aspects of the facility is entirely consistent with Government tourism policy.
- A flat water training facility for canoeing and other water sports. This will be open to members of the public, schools, youth groups, community groups etc.
- Two new high quality buildings on the Custom House Quay. One will service the White Water and the Swift Water Rescue Training facilities and will also cater for access to water activities on the River Liffey. The other building will be the new City Council Docklands Office.
The project will animate Georges Dock as an active recreational area in accordance with the ‘Water Animation Strategy for the Docklands Area’ (2018). It will also facilitate access to recreational water activities on the River Liffey. The Strategy was prepared to develop a clear vision for the future animation of the waterways, in the Docklands area. It seeks to build on the successes of previous plans, further promoting the area as a world class destination for living, doing business, tourism, leisure, wellness, and cultural activities The rejuvenation of the site, coupled with the proposed development will provide benefits not only to the residents of the local area, but also to visitors from across Dublin and Ireland and to overseas tourists.
Clear objectives have been developed for the project, which can be categorised into five themes:
- Swift Water Rescue Training: The development will provide a world class training facility for Dublin Fire Brigade and other emergency service personnel.
- Community and Physical Regeneration: The George’s Dock development will help facilitate the regeneration of the social and community life in the North-East inner city area.
- Tourist Destination: George’s Dock will be a major new popular tourist attraction in the centre of Dublin.
- Sport and Leisure: George’s Dock will establish an accessible centre of excellence for water based sporting and leisure activities.
- Education and Skills: George’s Dock will maximise local educational, training and employment opportunities.
The facility will play a key role in community development in the North-East inner city area, which is still experiencing significant levels of deprivation with certain groups lacking soft skills, such as confidence, leadership, teamwork, self-esteem. The White Water facility has the potential to help address the skills deficit of certain vulnerable groups in the community, help them gain social confidence and integrate better into the workplace and wider society. A community development programme will be implemented along the lines of a similar programme operated by the Pinkston Watersports (PWS) facility in Glasgow, which opened in May 2014. PWS has as part of its mission to deliver improved social outcomes for the local population and especially for disadvantaged youth via community paddling schemes, taster sessions and skills progression as well as various diversionary activity for youths in the area.
During the construction phase there will also be opportunities for local people who are linked to the Eastside & Docklands Local Employment Service (LES) to gain employment via the Construction Skills Employment Initiative that actually had its genesis with the Docklands Office and the LES. In addition, it is hoped to run training programmes with a view to hiring as many staff as possible for the facility from the local community.
This project is entirely consistent with the economic and community development role of Dublin City Council and with Government policy. It was subject to a robust debate at the City Council meeting on Monday 2 December, which is entirely appropriate. A significant majority of the Council voted to approve the project.