Investment in Carmarthenshire coastal defences pays dividends
That was the view expressed to Mid and West Wales Labour AM Joyce Watson when she discussed the effects of the recent storms at a meeting with senior council officers and coastal defence experts at Llanelli’s Discovery Centre.
Mrs Watson had visited other storm damaged areas and was particularly concerned at the effect on rail passengers and Milford Haven oil freight deliveries with line closures caused by storm damage to main railway lines at Pwll and Ferryside.
Carmarthenshire’s consultant coastal protection engineer, Howard Blackwell, explained that the threats to Llanelli’s coast - by rising tides and combinations of storm-driven Spring tides - has been the subject of a detailed survey that has been ongoing for 10 years.
Mrs Watson said:“I am very grateful to Mr Blackwell and councillor Peter Cooper for taking the time to show me around some of the county’s crucial coastal flooding protection sites.
“Carmarthenshire Council has been forward thinking, when it comes to flood prevention. And for good reason: in the long run it is cheaper to spend money shoring up flood defences now than having to fork out for huge civil engineering projects and emergency clean ups later.”
While there had been a tremendous movement of sand from the battering in early January, Mr Blackwell said this was of little concern because dunes all along the coastline would self-regenerate. It had, however, involved the council in considerable clean-up costs.
He said Carmarthenshire council’s Streetscene teams had supported the Pendine Community Council by helping to reinforce one of the sea wall lock gates in the January storm, but Network Rail had declined offers of assistance to sea defence wall repairs at Pwll and Ferryside. The main line was closed for six days.
Mrs Watson was told Carmarthenshire’s coastal damage costs were negligible. Wooden bridges were repaired on the naturally flooding salt march at Bynea by Millennium Coastal Park rangers. The footpath and cycleway has been reopened and all materials were sourced indigenously within the park.
Mr Blackwell told Mrs Watson the county’s storm management plan divided the coastline into four sections: hold the line by maintaining or replacing existing defences; advancing the line by building new defences; managed realignment – that’s allowing the shoreline to move backwards in a managed way; or no active intervention - let the sea do what comes naturally and allow a managed retreat.
Mrs Watson learned that Carmarthenshire’s chief executive Mark James had authorised £400k of coastal defence works following a storm impact at Burry Port in 2006.
“These works had inevitably saved any further damage this January,” said Mr Blackwell.
“It is these now constantly updated inspections and defence works that is protecting Carmarthenshire from significant storm harm when high tides and strong winds combine,” said Mr Blackwell.