Sunday, June 16, 2024



CONCERNS have been raised about the integrity of a specialist structure which allows two rivers to flow into Kilkeel Harbour.

Engineers commenced inspections early last week in a bid to determine the extent of the damage and work needed to repair sections of the harbour, where a suspected sinkhole has developed in recent days. It is feared that concrete, where the Kilkeel and Aughrim rivers converge and flow into the harbour, which is home to the province’s largest fishing fleet, is “rapidly disintegrating”.

Since the damage was first spotted, the situation has deteriorated further and is visible to the naked eye when the water level is lower. At the centre of the undermined structure is a ‘fish run,’ or ‘fish pass’, which allows species such as salmon to move out of the harbour’s saltwater and into the rivers at certain times of the year. But, within the last few weeks, the water has been draining out of this fish run, while water gushes out of a larger hole further down the sloping concrete. With the force of the water further weakening the concrete, and causing further damage, representatives from the fishing industry and local conservationists have raised the matter with local councillor, Glyn Hanna. The DUP representative said people “are extremely alarmed” about the damage already caused, and that the situation may have already undermined the integrity of the harbour floor. “We have seen the rapid disintegration of concrete.

A massive hole has developed under the concrete just below the bridge. The water is getting into what looks like a sinkhole and the pressure of water is bursting concrete up further down where the river water enters the harbour,” Cllr Hanna explained. Having been advised that “inspections have been ongoing since last Tuesday” by a team of engineers engaged by the Harbour Authority to discover the extent of damage and ascertain the scale of work needed to repair this section of the harbour, Mr Hanna has warned that “remedial work would only be a sticking plaster repair.” He continued: “Long-lasting works need done before the breeding season starts for fish later in the summer. “Just as the river enters the harbour is a structure to help fish ‘climb’ out of the harbour, just where this major damage to concrete is located. I don’t want any impact to fish or wildlife, if possible.” Cllr Hanna added that he believes this damage to the concrete has been caused by “the large number of storms we have endured over the last six months”.

Warning that “the danger of damage to the harbour floor is real”, he added that the current situation means the harbour’s pontoon, and the boats moored there, are also in jeopardy. He and vessel owners have concerns that “uncontrolled volumes of water from a major storm” combined with broken chunks of concrete “getting thrown around by the force of the water” could have dire consequences. Noting that the Harbour Authority is responsible for the harbour, Cllr Hanna said efforts are under way to establish which government agencies were responsible for the repair of the structure.

He concluded: “I want money made available urgently to fix this damage, I don’t want a sticking plaster job and the minster responsible needs to step up to find this money in his budget urgently. “I believe it may take millions of pounds to repair this type of structural repairs and the time factor will be critical before we run into the next storm season. “Someone has to take responsibility before it gets out of hand. “Hopefully we will get this resolved quickly.” The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the Department for Infrastructure have been approached for comment.

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