Storms pose serious threat to Achill beaches

Cllr Paul McNamara

Cllr Paul McNamara

Achill based Cllr Paul McNamara has said that he fears that two beaches on the island at Keel and Dooagh are in danger of potentially being washed away if another big storm comes.

McNamara was speaking at the February West Mayo Municipal District meeting which took place on Monday, where he called for Mayo County Council to have pot of money in place to deal with storm damage as it happened, rather than having to apply for funding and wait for it to come come down from central government - because by the time the money comes down, another storm will have caused more damage.

He said that the island has seen three severe storms so far this year already and the damage that has been caused has not been repaired; if another big storm comes it could cause irreparable damage.

He pointed out that both Keel beach and Dooagh beach have taken severe hits from the storms and said the council need to be looking at protecting the people and the services in the area.

McNamara told the meeting that there is a sewerage treatment plant in the Keel area that runs very close to the shoreline and that there are a number of houses in the area that are in danger of flooding and one that is only in the region of 20 foot from a 100 foot drop - which coastal erosion is seeing come closer and closer each year. "If we do not do something, some of these areas will get washed away overnight if a severe storm comes" he said.

Belumllet based councillors, Sean Carey and Gerry Coyle, told the meeting that in their area they were seeing similar issues arising every time a big storm occurs, with Coyle saying that pre-emptive work needed to be done to stop the damage happening.

Cllr Peter Flynn agreed that something needed to be done - but pointed out that this is something that does not just need local attention, but national attention, saying: "One thing has become abundantly clear, we are moving into territory we have never encountered before - we will have higher seas, higher rivers and more storms, we can close our eyes and pretend this isn't happening or we can make critical decisions as a nation about what we can do to counteract it." He went on to say that big decisions need to be made at national and European level to do something and that just as the council have a roads programme each year to carry out works and repairs on roads, the council also needs to have a flood defence programme that can see works planned and carried out each year in order to try and stop the damage happening.

Padraig Walsh, head of the municipal district, responding to the councillors, stated: "Coastal erosion is a difficult problem and it is one that requires detailed national policy. It is difficult to see a situation where we will be able to protect all of our coastline because typically, the scale of the cost to protect coastlines is way up there in terms of cost to start with.

"We will pass on to our own colleagues in the Environment and Climate Change section your comments - they are working on a climate adaptation strategy at the moment

"Fundamentally you are talking about a national policy about how we approach dealing with coastal erosion on very long stretches of our coastline. How do we fund it? How do we approach it? There is a national question there.

"We don't have a contingency fund and I am not clear about how we might access one. We might be able to apply in certain situations if there are public roads affected by issues of this type, we can apply to the Department of Transport.

"If houses are at risk we can apply to the OPW, but they are not 100 per cent funded, it is usually 75 per cent funded - but the bigger obstacle is they will have to pass a cost benefit analysis to be able to draw down any significant funding and that is a major obstacle.

"If it is just purely land at risk that typically doesn't garner any OPW money of any significance because there are no houses at risk, so the whole regime when it comes to funding, it needs thought, but we don't have a fighting fund in place."

 

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