Sunday, June 16, 2024
GeneralREPAIRS MUST BE MORE THAN A STICKING PLASTER

REPAIRS MUST BE MORE THAN A STICKING PLASTER

FURTHER damage has occurred at Kilkeel Harbour, prompting concerns that the foundations of a bridge at the centre of the busy port may have been undermined.

Last month, it emerged that fears were growing the point where two rivers to flow into the harbour had been seriously damaged.

With further exploratory works starting this week, it has now been suggested that the foundations of the bridge, facing the Nautilus Centre, and which links the northern and southern sides of the harbour, could be affected.

Councillor Glyn Hanna said the latest update is worrying and said money must be secured, urgently, to fix the problem.

The DUP representative added that “a sticking plaster solution will not be suffice” and called for Stormont departments to ensure the money is made available, however much that may be, for the repairs to proceed.

Outlining the severity of the situation last month, Cllr Hanna explained to his local paper that a suspected sinkhole had developed.

The concrete base, where the Kilkeel and Aughrim rivers converge and flow into the harbour, which is home to the province’s largest fishing fleet, is disintegrating and, since the damage was first spotted, the situation has deteriorated even 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, due to the escalating situation, 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 their concerns about the matter.

With machinery now on site for a second phase of exploratory work, Mr Hanna noted the importance of keeping both sides of the harbour fully accessible.

The site is adjacent to where the town’s Rooney and Harbour roads merge, and this bridge provides access to a number of key commercial premises and factories situated along the northern side of the harbour.

Describing the damage as “serious”, Mr Hanna said he received confirmation last week that further exploratory work is to commence “at the river entrance and bridge into Kilkeel Harbour.”

Recent storms, and in particular, swollen rivers, are thought to have exacerbated the problem, with the force of the water tearing up sections of concrete slabs.

“Some investigation has already been carried out under the bridge where the fish run is located, giving breeding fish access to the rivers. This is where the concrete has failed with all the winter storms.

“The damage is serious, I believe, to the fish run and the concrete under the bridge into the harbour, and it is feared that damage to the bridge foundation is very possible,” revealed Mr Hanna.

He said once the extent of the damage is fully assessed, it is “imperative that the funding is found to fix this problem properly”.

“I know some temporary works may have to be done in the short-term to allow fish to access the rivers to breed and to prevent damage getting any worse, but a long-lasting repair needs carried out over this summer before autumn and winter storms come later this year.

“Diane Forsythe MLA has been assured by agriculture and fisheries minister Andrew Muir that he and the infrastructure minster are seeking a solution as soon as possible.

“What I want,” he concluded, “is a strong permanent long lasting repair not a sticking plaster repair.”

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