Wed | Jun 29, 2016

Breakwater would break Negril

Published:Wednesday | January 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Here is a short summary, based on research by the stakeholders, who, incidentally, have the most at stake on how the proposed breakwater would alter the resort town of Negril.

Breakwaters do not accrete sand and they do not address rising sea levels. They are built to prevent sand from further receding but with no guarantees. The proposed breakwater for Negril would require 14 months of 24/7 hard-core construction, requiring a 'construction stage' at the mouth of the river in the centre of town with a crane and barge. Not to mention the scarring of the hills where the boulders will be mined. This 14-month project will cripple all businesses on the West End of Negril for years to come.

Breakwater boulders

Breakwater boulders bring dust and debris to the location they are being placed and they are in need of ongoing maintenance after completion. They also attract algae, eventually smothering the reef as well as proliferate algae inside the breakwaters coming ashore, creating odour and contaminating the water.

Further yet, breakwater boulders have been known to tumble and roll in hurricanes. This means they could break up the already fragile reef or end up on shore.

It is important to note, too, that there are regions with breakwaters trying to figure out how to get rid of them, including California, New Jersey, North Carolina and Portugal. Once they are built there is no turning back. And, most important, they come with no guarantees. This fact renders the breakwater theory an enormous risk.

Negril's beach is dynamic. When there is a storm, the sand goes away but always comes back, perhaps in different areas, but it never goes far. The currents keep the water pristine and this natural movement would be inhibited by breakwaters.

There are a multitude of issues that need to be addressed to revive the reef, one of which involves rehydrating the morass. If the reef were brought back to a healthy state and NEPA enforced the setback and density laws there would be no beach erosion.

Beach nourishment, however, is guaranteed to work. It is a soft non-intrusive procedure that would require only four to eight weeks to achieve. It is aesthetically beautiful, compared with an ugly man-made breakwater obstructing the famous sunset. All Negril properties would reap immediate benefit, the West End would not suffer and occupancies would increase. Beach nourishment is ideal for Negril because it is a beach type referred to as a 'closed cell', meaning it curves at the ends, so the sand does not escape easily. Yes, a hurricane will make the beach recede but it would return. The sand for this technique has been sourced a few miles off Negril, and is the same quality and molecular structure as the Negril beach sand.

There are marine and coastal engineers who recommend this for Negril but, unfortunately, NEPA has stated they are not interested in these studies.

The Negril stakeholders are perplexed as to why NEPA, and other state agencies, are not willing to work with us. Could this be a case of promised contracts interfering with what is best for the environment?

Jane Issa

Negril, Jamaica