Fingal council to get Portrane erosion study


Fingal County Council has tendered for a coastal erosion risk-management study as residents in Portrane, Co Dublin, have become increasingly worried for their homes.

The rate of erosion at the southern end of the Burrow peninsula at Portrane has accelerated in the past two years.

Last October the combination of an easterly storm and an exceptionally high tide washed away three to four metres of a 400m stretch of sand dunes. In some of the worst-affected areas just 15m of dune between the sea and private dwellings.

Last week’s high tide brought further erosion and prompted the Burrow Residents’ Association to describe the situation as critical.

Resident Henry Donovan estimated it would take about three years for the sea to break through the sand barrier and flood houses.

He said the council had conducted studies into the matter over the years but emergency remedial action was required.

Houses in danger

Of the 150 or so houses in the area, Mr Donovan estimated about 30 would be in particular danger if the sea breached the dunes.

“It will cost more to rehouse people if and when the tide breaks through,” he said.

Labour Party TD for Dublin North Brendan Ryan placed the onus on the council to reassure residents “that the problem is being taken seriously and that there is a plan”.

He said the council could prevent flooding if it addressed the issue immediately but “people are asking does it require a house to be washed away before people take this seriously”.

The council said there was “no immediate threat” to properties. “No house is going to fall into the sea tomorrow,” said Fingal biodiversity officer Hans Visser.

“Quite a lot of dune [is] left before [the sea] hits houses”, he said. Only a “megastorm” could substantially erode the remaining 15m of sand”.

He said erosion had “always been a problem” in the area, having previously affected northern and central parts of the peninsula. Eroded sand from the south is being deposited towards the north.

Interference with sand dunes is a “last resort”, Mr Visser said, because “disturbing the active cycle [of erosion] could have its own problems”.

He said in this case something needed to be done before it was too late. Previous protection work involved building a boardwalk across the dunes to prevent walkers disturbing the sand. Much of that structure has been washed away.

Serious threat

The risk-management study will determine how long it would take for the sea to pose a serious threat to locals’ homes and what preventive action could be taken. The tender says “the consultant shall identify at least two low-cost options and provide outline designs for interim coastal erosion measures at the southern end of the Burrow. It is envisioned that this will slow down the erosion while the other studies are taking place.”

The assessment is required to present options and measures for short-term (2015), medium-term (2050) and long-term (2100) management.

The research – which Mr Visser estimated would cost between €30,000 and €75,000 – and any work recommended would depend on funding from the Office of Public Works.

The council and local residents met the OPW earlier this month to discuss the matter. Burrow Residents’ Association chairman Raymond Brett said an interim measure was urgently required.