“The soft soil of Wexford is falling into the sea”

Rock armour helping with coastal erosion at Ballinamona beach, Blackwater. (File Picture).

By Dan Walsh at special meeting of Wexford County Council

Wexford’s coastline consists of 260kms, one of the biggest in the country, and 211kms is described as ‘soft coastline’ and is vulnerable to erosion, members learned at a special meeting of Wexford County Council on “climate change, coastal erosion, coastal flooding and rising sea levels” held in the Council Chamber today (Tuesday).

Members became angry and raised serious concerns about the failure to address flooding and coastal erosion problems when it emerged that there “is no national strategy for managing coastal erosion.”

Cllr Jim Moore said there were 21 ‘risk zones’ in 260kms of coastline and he asked what supports are there? He was appalled that there is “no lead (strategy) on a coastline in an island nation that has a plethora of issues. He recalled that 3,000 acres of land was nearly lost to the sea last year and there is no lead agency dealing with this!

Cllr Joe Sullivan was amazed that out of 260kms, only 15kms had rock armour, and he felt that is “very low.” He drew attention to three private properties in North Wexford that are “land locked” because the roadway has been completely washed away.

Cllr Ger Carthy said that when it comes to coastal protection, “we are talking in a vacuum.” “Are we going to let land and houses go out to sea. We have no money, absolutely zero. We have no funding, no commitment for funding, and by the way, coast analysis for the value of houses is a job for auctioneers and valuers, not engineers. We are not serious about any of this,” he concluded.

Cllr Lisa McDonald was appalled that there is no national lead agency, no national strategy, and she recalled that Minister Patrick Donovan said on a visit to Wexford that Youghal to Wicklow is the most vulnerable in the country. “The soft soil of Wexford is falling into the sea and there is no national plan. They are reclaiming land in other countries, but we are an island nation willing to let the land fall into the sea,” she added.

Cllr Jim Codd recalled the situation in Bridgetown at Christmas 2021. “That land was reclaimed from the sea and now it is going back to the sea.” He wanted to know what has been done differently to prevent flooding again at Bridgetown?

Cllr Pat Barden believed the council staff were doing their best without resources and he spoke about a situation at Grange beach where a man took action to prevent his home from being washed away and he ended up in court!  

Cllr Michael Whelan raised concerns about 2kms of public road at St. Kearns where a wall has deteriorated in the last 12 months, and it is protecting land.

Cllr Cathal Byrne said he is “very disappointed”. “Eight generations of my family farmed land at Poulshone and now it is totally gone,” he said. Cllr Michael Sheehan referred to recent flooding in Wexford, Enniscorthy and New Ross.

It emerged from the meeting that rock armour was costing €8,000 per metre. This cost shocked the room. Cllr Pip Breen suggested opening old quarries to solve the rock armour supply from the nearest point. “There are about 60 closed quarries in the parishes where rock armour could be sourced. Bring back the small quarries, I’d say,” added Cllr Breen.

The meeting heard from Carolyne Godkin, Director of Services, Frank Burke, Climate Action Co-ordinator, Gerry Forde, Senior Engineer, George Colfer, Coastal Engineer, and Mark Adamson, OPW Head of Flood Risk Management and Climate Adaptation Division. Cllr Mary Farrell was in the chair.

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