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The truths they don't want you to read....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Coastal Protection

It is excellent news that Mike Russell has announced extra funding of £250k for flood defences and access (escape road) schemes in the Western Isles.

I sincerely hope that they can be fully implemented as soon as possible, as they are desperately overdue and it is only a matter of time before the same threats come upon us.

However, I have a problem with the coastal protection schemes. The Wallingford report prepared for the Comhairle in the 1990's made it clear that the vast majority of schemes were a waste of money and time, as the sea would bypass any defences.

Having said that, if I lived near any of the four locations, I would be screaming for the defences to be built.

But take a step back and look at the cost, the change of long term success in many of the areas, and the cost of the options and the sensible course of action is to move the human inhabitants away from danger.

Castle MacSween in Torlum was built on the sea's edge and is now about 1km from the sea, like Beaumaris in North Wales. The schools at Linaclete and Seilebost will almost certainly be under serious threat in the next 10 years, and my advice has long been simple: "Close them, lose them, and built on solid ground well above the tidal limits." I hope that those who would be King Cnut take this simple advice.


Anonymous said...

Why not start a point less argument! So there is this castle that was built on the edge of the sea and is now a good distance away from said sea - presumably because there was some deposit of land/sand between the castle and the edge of the sea. This is the land upon which the school at Liniclate was built 20 years and the Dark Island Hotel some 10 years before that.
The only answer that you can come up with is to abandon these areas and move to higher ground?? These areas are about as far above sea level as most of Stornoway - do we abandon Stornoway and move everyone to Achmore??

Anonymous said...

It's also known as Borve Castle.

Anonymous said...

Of course, if the Comhairle did some joined-up thinking, then this makes the case for the three-tunnel project (Sound of Harris, Sound of Barra, Lochmaddy-Uig) stronger.

The three channel tunnels produced 9.3 million cubic metres of spoil/waste rock, which went to create a new hill in France and a new island off England. Dig a tunnel or two here and - without the need to controversially blast away a Harris hill - you've got a heck of a lot of rock, best used to bolster sea defences and extend coastal land.

Anonymous said...

Angus, are you suggesting we just let everywhere flood, and do nothing?

AIF said...

Here is an interesting resource built on Google Maps technology which demonstrates what we may be in for as the ice caps melt. The link takes you directly to a view focused over Lionacleit. Adjust the sea level rise at the top right. Careful, it's addictive.

I recall seeing a documentary on channel 4 (I think it was Marcel Theroux, The End of the World as We Know It) in which he spoke to a man living somewhere in England who had been in his home for a quite some time and was now watching as a once distant body of water made its way closer to his door each time there was a heavy prolonged rainfall. He was asked how long he thought it would be before he had to leave and he said he wasn't going anywhere ever, the water would never reach his door. This after being told by insurers that they cold no longer cover his house.

Later in the same documentary, Marcel went to Prypiat where he met people who had never left the town after the Chernobyl disaster. He watched as an old lady plucked cabbages from her garden that would make a Geiger counter click at an alarming rate.

Moving people away from areas at risk makes sense from a cold analytical point of view, but it's not so easy to convince those who must move. A sense of attachment and a house you have worked hard for will cloud even the most logical person's judgment.

If fate had dealt me a different hand, I'm not so sure that I wouldn't be sitting at a rickety old table, slurping down a bowl of radioactive cabbage soup.

Angus said...

As Alasdair F says, the cold hard analytics do not take into account the emotions.

There are some areas where building coastal defences seem pointless - I vetoed any attempt to do anything on the west coast of Baleshare - and others where to do nothing is foolish - the impact on Balivanich airport for the entire community is so immense that Something Must Be Done.

I question whether it is sensible to squander money trying to stop the unstoppable in Linaclete, when it may be better to plan (and save) for the inevitable.

And, yes, global warming will also have an impact on Stornoway where the same questions will have to be answered.

Angus said...

Thanks to Alasdair F for the mash-up map.

Current planning advice is to build 5m above high tide. Run that through the model....

Anonymous said...

Angus doing his "I'll never need to stand in a ward in Uist" speech.

Anonymous said...

silversprite, I am afraid that that is a very bad idea (as anyone who has ever made, as a child, a sand bank to keep out the tide knows.) smaller scale but same prob. the bank just gets more and more undermined each year. On the plus side, I don't think the water will rise much more, and I think we will see temps cooling off a little, now. On the negative, it will be too late for some areas.

Anonymous said...

I don't want the Comhairle spending money on schemes that won't work.

They must determine that they will work before committing the money.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:59. Rock beats sand.