Erosion forum planned

Woodbridge Island has been identified as one of the erosion hot spots along the Milnerton coastline.

The City of Cape Town’s Transport and Urban Department Authority wants to establish a “multi-party collaborative forum” to manage the ongoing problem of erosion along Milnerton’s coastline.

Head of the City’s Coastal Policy Development and Management Programmes, Darryl Colenbrander, did a presentation at Sub-council 3’s first meeting of the year, last Thursday, on the history, findings and way forward in dealing with erosion.

The presentation included the findings of six specialists looking at the sea level rise, high water mark determination, local and international case studies, review of previous studies, economic assessment and governance and social justice.

The study area included 1 405 properties valued at R2.086 billion and public infrastructure valued at R38.4 million.

He said Woodbridge Island and Lagoon beach were erosion “hot spots” and listed climate change and sea-level rise as some of the key drivers of beach erosion.

“The Milnerton coast has lost the resilience to recover from the impact of extreme storms. The building of the port has altered the wave climate and caused ongoing coastal erosion,” said Mr Colenbrander.

He said extreme storms rather than sea level rise were the “most active drivers” of coastal erosion, causing beach regression.

He added that there was a sequential pattern in erosion which started where erosion ate into the dune cordon. This threatened infrastructure and services.

Soft protective measures such as sand bags were put in place but Mr Colenbrander said erosion from extreme storms overwhelmed these soft protective measures.

“Armoured protective measures such as seawalls and breakwaters are put into place and the remaining beach is lost from in front of the hard protective measures, as the high water mark migrates to the foot of the seawall,” he said.

He said in 2008 a storm in the area had a wave run-up that was higher than the road level of the R27.

He said the buffer between the sea and the R27 was too narrow and that this would pose a significant risk as the buffer eroded away with time. From a legal perspective, the ramifications of erosion caused further headaches as the Integrated Coastal Management Act states that if a high water mark moves landward of a coastal land unit’s straight line boundary, that unit became state land.

“Six erven have been partially lost due to coastal erosion. Another six have been completely lost and are now deemed part of the sea shore.”

He said Milnerton beach was used by people from diverse racial and socio-economic backgrounds and the concern was that the beach would be lost as “a public space”.

Mr Colenbrander said they wanted to present the findings of the research to affected stakeholders in order to: identify a formal collaborative structure to promote co-governance of this challenge; define the purpose of the forum; identify channels of communication; ensure that the City, and members of each of the effected body corporates were represented on the forum; ensure that members representing the beach going public were represented on this forum.

Ward 113 councillor, Dr Joy McCarthy, said considering this stretch of coastline in isolation was a mistake as the entire coastline was experiencing problems.

Mr Colenbrander agreed and said there were “capacity and funding constraints”.

He said this was a pilot study and that they were keen to take the principles coming out of it and applying them in other areas.

Dr McCarthy also suggested that institutions such as the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) be added to the forum as the area housed historical sites such as the old wooden bridge, a piece of the Commodore shipwreck and the Haarlem shipwreck.

Suzette Little, the mayoral committee member for area north, urged that a meeting with all relevant stakeholders be set up as soon as possible to discuss “rands and cents”.

Caroline Marx, an executive member of the Milnerton Central Residents’ Association (MCRA) and head of the environmental portfolio, said a forum of this kind was long overdue.

“There needs to be an integrated public/private partnership to determine and implement a long-term strategy to combat a complex problem,” said Ms Marx.

She felt the economic assessment of the study area should have included more of Milnerton such as the area between Koeberg Road and the R27 and Race Course Road.

“The reason for that is that not only is the value of those homes and businesses substantially impacted by being within walking distance of a user-friendly beach, but also that immediately adjacent to the R27 (and hence the lagoon and at the same level ) is a substantial amount of infrastructure, namely two large schools, municipal buildings, a library, a theatre and guest houses as well as private dwellings and also large multi-storey blocks of flats . If the R27 could be impacted, so would they and they very definitely form part of the rates base in the immediate area.”

She said it was difficult to predict how Milnerton’s coastline properties would be affected in future and said it depended on measures taken, the weather, as well as planned extensions to the harbour.

“The MCRA cannot protect ratepayers. We can only try and ensure that residents are well informed and represented on the forum and part of the decision-making process,” said Ms Marx.

Chairman of MCRA, Peter Walsh, said: “While MCRA has no mandate in the areas you refer to, we have a vested interest in playing our part to protect the beaches, uplift the areas that adjoin us and manage pollution which affects us. And we continue to do so on an ongoing basis.”