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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 22 January, 2020
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Trump plan for a wall in Clare slammed by international experts

They say the wall will damage the beach.

Image: Niall Carson

WHILE HIS EXECUTIVE order telling US agencies to plan for a wall on the Mexican border was met with anger yesterday, another one of US President Donald Trump’s walls is causing anger closer to home.

Last month, Trump’s firm withdrew plans to build a €10 million rock barrier along his Clare golf course – but said they will submit a new application for a smaller wall “at the soonest”.

The proposed plans had sparked fierce opposition from groups such as An Taisce, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), the Save Doughmore Beach Protection Group, surfer groups and over 30 individuals living outside Doonbeg.

Today, four international experts sent an open letter to the Clare Champion newspaper warning that the new plan would still be bad for the environment.

The authors of ‘The World’s Beaches, A Global Guide to the Science of the Shoreline’, point out that: “Dune erosion is part of the beach sand supply, and walls interfere with such supply.

“The short of it is’, they advise, “seawalls destroy beaches and if that ‘solution’ is followed ‘bigger and better’ walls will be needed as the wave size increases and sea-level rises.”

The authors conclude ‘We believe that the public may not be aware that, in effect, the proposed work at Doonbeg Golf course project hasn’t really changed and still involves beach-destroying seawalls.’

Instead of walls to protect the golf course, the authors recommend that “the currently affected holes can be located further from the shoreline if the need arises (most likely at less cost than constructing/maintaining walls).

“This approach will preserve the beach for future generations, maintain the recreational course, and set a good example for future Irish coastal management in this time of rapidly rising sea levels.”

The letter in full:

Dear Editor,

Donald Trump’s campaign, and now as US President-elect, has brought publicity to his business dealings, including the TIGL Doonbeg Golf Resort in Ireland and the proposed seawall to combat erosion. The justification for the wall was the claim the seawall is needed because of climate change and continuing sea level rise. But president-elect Trump has characterized climate change as a hoax, so this rationale for the seawall is hypocritical. Recently, considerable publicity was given to the fact that the application for the seawall was withdrawn; some claiming a sort of victory. However, we believe the Council should be diligent as the beach/dune system is still under threat from a revised seawalls plan.

Our understanding is that a revised application has been submitted to build two shorter walls (i.e., one 650 meters and one 250 meters long), instead of the original proposed 2.8 km wall. This smaller scale proposal is far from benign.

Much international experience has proven that seawalls beget seawalls, and once these smaller walls are constructed, accelerated erosion will occur at the ends of the walls as well as beach steepening and probable narrowing in front of the walls. Dune erosion is part of the beach sand supply, and walls interfere with such supply. You will then be faced with applications to extend the “short” walls or to take other actions that will destroy the natural system of this beautiful shore. The short of it is: seawalls destroy beaches and if that ‘solution’ is followed ‘bigger and better’ walls will be needed as the wave size increases and sea-level rises.

Given the golf-course developers new seawall proposal, this is not the time for coastal managers to drop their diligence. We believe that the public may not be aware that, in effect, the proposed work at Doonbeg Golf course project hasn’t really changed and still involves emplacement of beach-destroying seawalls.

As coastal geologists (all co-authors of ‘The Worlds’ Beaches,’ UC Press), we urge Clare County Council to turn down any request for any seawall or other shore-hardening structures, short or long, to ‘protect’ any part of the golf course. Rather, the currently affected holes can be located further from the shoreline if the need arises (most likely at less cost than constructing/maintaining walls). This approach will preserve the beach for future generations, maintain the recreational course, and set a good example for future Irish coastal management in this time of rapidly rising sea levels.

Respectfully yours,

William J, Neal, Emeritus Professor of Geology, Grand Valley State University
Orrin Pilkey, James B. Duke Emeritus Professor of Earth Science, Duke University
Andrew Cooper, Professor of Coastal Studies, University of Ulster
Joseph Kelley, Professor of Geology, University of Maine

Members of the local community, however, have told TheJournal.ie that they support the wall.

Read: Plans for Trump wall along Clare coast withdrawn – but a new one is on the way

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