Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

How to stop sea erosion - Look at beach nourishment says expert

Cliffs on the coastline at Slea Head, Dingle, Ireland. Stock photo.
Cliffs on the coastline at Slea Head, Dingle, Ireland. Stock photo.
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

The Irish coastline will be 30m further inland by 2050, a leading engineer has warned.

Dr Jimmy Murphy, senior lecturer school of engineering at UCC, says coastal erosion is “not a critical priority” for the Government. He also stresses that people living in vulnerable areas need to be better educated on the future threat to their land.

“Coastal erosion is always happening but it’s only when you have a big storm that it comes to the forefront.

“On average the Irish coastline erodes one metre per year, if you project that forward in 30 years time the coastline with be 30 metres further in than it is now,” he said. He said Ireland is lagging behind the EU by not having an overall strategy on how to manage the Irish coastline.

“There isn’t a plan in place in terms of protecting a particular coastline and what we do if a coastline starts eroding at a faster rate. Do we let it happen? Or do we have a managed retreat where we move everyone out?”

“In the UK they are currently looking at whether farmers should be compensated or whether property owners should be relocated through policies of managed realignment.”

He believes better education is crucial going forward.

“Erosion is a natural process, but people need to be better informed as to some of the hard decisions that might have to be made down the line in terms of paying millions to protect their home if they buy or build along the coast.”

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As well as drawing up a long term coastal management plan, Dr Murphy believes the Government should consider alternatives to expensive revetments — sloping rock structures placed on banks or cliffs — to protect areas.

“Internationally they look at beach nourishment. If you dredge sand from offshore and dump it on the beach the beach will be better protected.

“That is a natural solution that works but we don’t employ it in Ireland,” he said.

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