Thursday 18 December 2008

€30m bill to protect eroding Kerry coast

IT COULD cost more than €30 million to protect Kerry’s most vulnerable stretches of coastline from erosion, a report has estimated.

However, the council has no money to do the work and Government coffers are empty. A mere €3m was available for coastal protection, nationally, last year.

The crisis was graphically highlighted this week when erosion created a new, five-acre island at Rossbeigh, cutting off a large chunk of the sand dune area at a popular blue flag beach just off the Ring of Kerry.

Some people in the area have now offered to provide machinery and labour, free of charge, to prevent further damage.

Rossbeigh-based Fianna Fáil councillor and businessman Michael Cahill, who has warned for many years of severe damage by erosion, said there are fears the entire dunes area would eventually be washed away by the sea.

“’In my grandfather’s time it was said there was an acre of dune in Rossbeigh for every day of the year, but there’s less than one-third of that left,” he said.

Kerry has approximately 12% of the country’s coastline and the second highest amount of ‘soft’ coastline — areas vulnerable to erosion, including sand dunes, glacial cliffs, marine wetlands and estuary zones.

The problem was spectacularly illustrated by a landslide in Dunquin, last year, following which a new one kilometre stretch of roadway had to be built.

In 2003, it was estimated that of Kerry’s 684km of coastline, 378km was soft, with about 41km in need of urgent attention.

The cost of protecting the 41km was then conservatively estimated at €26m, but the figure is well over €30m at this stage, according to the council report released yesterday.

In 2003, a prioritised programme of work needed at 10 vulnerable locations was submitted to the Department of Marines for funding, with an estimated cost of almost €11m.

But, only a fraction of the work regarded as necessary five years ago has since been carried out due to a funds shortage.

In early 2007, however, the council had to proceed with emergency works at Inch, in the interest of public safety.

The works cost €4m, with grant aid of €900,000, coming from the Department of Agriculture and €150,000 from the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The Department of Environment allocated €950,000.

However, there is still a €2m shortfall.

“The level of funding provided nationally for coastal protection works is totally inadequate, and this has been highlighted in previous responses to notices of motions by this council,” said a council spokesman.

Irish Examiner

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