Unsightly beach

Earthmoving equipment at Big Bay.

Donald Gray, Sunningdale

Various reports have been published in your newspaper regarding the ever-deteriorating condition of the Big Bay nearshore beach area, particularly following last year’s winter sea storm of June 7 (“Official injured at beach,” Tabletalk, June 14, 2017).

These reports have generally included comments from City officials intimating the ongoing beach erosion has been due to exceptional sea conditions, with your last article stating that beach rehabilitation measures initiated by the City had been “completed” in time for the December holiday season.

It now seems that statement was misleading as earthmoving machinery is again at work on the beach, excavating and displacing sand in a crude effort to establish an artificially shaped gradient to the water’s edge.

This current work is yet more cosmetic treatment that will not last beyond the next spring tides, given that the “beach sand” is re-worked unstable material.

Many residents of Blouberg prior to 2007 will be able to recall the natural undisturbed condition of the Big Bay beach when it was indeed a real “jewel of the West Coast” (quotation from City officials).

Sadly it is now evident that the artificial beachfront embankment, built with soil excavated from the Eden on the Bay basement, has permanently altered the interface zone between the sea and dunes resulting in a cycle of continuous erosion to the shoreline.

A far more scientific marine investigation will be needed to establish a permanent solution for the beachfront if it is to remain viable as a local centre of attraction.

Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for area central responds:

The completion of the rehabilitation of Big Bay beach and dunes was initially targeted for the start of the summer school holidays.

For several reasons this could not be achieved, and subsequently we undertook measures to ensure that the area was safe and usable prior to the festive season.

Work commenced again on January 15 this year. All work should be completed by the end of February with final planting to be done between April and June, depending on rainfall and any other unforeseen delays.

The current machine work, which seems to be the subject of the query, has been completed. The machine work was done to remove all foreign material that was exposed after the storm on June 7 last year and to complete the beach reconstruction work.

The beach shape and profile has been designed to be as natural as possible. The previous dune was far too steep and close to the high water mark which resulted in a three to four metre erosion scarp after storms.

The “new” beach is significantly wider, particularly at high tide, and the fore-dune is set back and has a more natural slope.

This should withstand the normal erosion and accretion cycles without compromising the use of the beach amenity. Significantly more useable public beach area has been created in the process.

The photo show the “new” wider beach area, the beach with new vegetation and temporary fencing over the holidays, as well as the “machined” beach during a clean-up conducted during the week of Monday January 22.