A University College Cork geographer says it is "simplistic" to suggest the State surrenders parts of the coastline to the elements and that solutions do not have to cost "millions".
However, the Government should initiate an immediate programme of continuous coastline monitoring which could be conducted at low cost by community and school groups, UCC geography lecturer Dr Max Kozachenko says.
Several academics and commentators on the recent extreme weather have suggested the cost of protecting the entire coastline would be prohibitive. However, Dr Kozachenko, who has advised national and local government about developing coastal monitoring programmes and coastal protection, says a co-ordinated approach which involves both continuous monitoring and innovative approaches can help to “manage” the threats caused by extreme weather and constant erosion.
He says the traditional rock armouring or concrete walls used in many parts of Ireland for coastal protection have negative impacts, in displacing energy which will still cause erosion elsewhere and in dropping beach levels due to sediments being dragged offshore.
A far more effective option, used in places like Lahinch, Co Clare, is placing rock fragments in front of rock armoury or walls to “scatter” wave energy, he says.
Japan's technique in creating artificial reefs offshore has also proved effective and has the additional benefit of creating biodiversity that generates tourism income, he says.
A marked difference can be noticed in the level and sand composition of beaches in the vicinity of protective structures, if the right approach is taken.
Dr Kozachenko says coastal protection is a “balance” that should take into account seasonal cycles and the inter-tidal and near-shore environments.
Coastlines at Tramore, Co Waterford, Ballycotton bay, Co Cork and Rossbeigh, Co Kerry, are the focus of ongoing research by him and his students. He believes invaluable information could be gleaned by monitoring the entire coastline. Britain has been monitoring changes to some parts of its coastline for the past 50 years, he adds.