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  Well Attended Meeting on Proposed Pier Developments held on Cape Clear Island

An important meeting regarding the proposed harbor developments on Cape Clear Island was held in the Community Hall on Friday evening, the 24th August. Unsurprisingly there was a very good turnout to hear various experts describe the various preparatory and planning works carried out in recent years. There has been increasing concern on the Island in recent years at the obvious deterioration in the ‘Bulls Nose’, that part of the outer Harbor which provides crucial protection to the working Harbor within and especially the main ferry berth. Large and growing cracks are extending downwards and even a cursory inspection shows that it is in imminent danger of collapse. This is confirmed by a detailed borehole analysis. This would expose the main pier and working harbor to the seas and would, as some islanders bluntly put it “close us down in the winter”. First off was Jimmy Murphy of UCC who has supervised various wave studies over the years. He descried the different types of waves, their different features and how they can combine to combine complex and unpredictable waves. He explained how the studies have found all types of waves entering North Harbour and combining to form the severe wave conditions which are known locally as ‘draw’. He described the waves in North Harbor as ‘exceptional’ and these pose enormous challenges for the design of a new safe harbor. Various different models of breakwaters have been proposed to protect the Harbor but the modelling based on the wave studies show that no feasible combination of breakwaters can reduce the wave height in the inner Harbor to an acceptable working level of less than .5 meters. It was fascinating for those seafarers present to see what they know about the wave conditions in Cape Clear through local knowledge over many years being confirmed by science and referring to Jimmy’s statement that North Harbor was ‘the most studied in the world’, someone later clipped, “he’s probably exaggerating but not by much”. It was a truly impressive performance. There followed a presentation by John Norris of Malone Regan Design on the proposed solution, a redesigned ‘Bulls Nose’ combined with an extension to Duffy;s Pier to provide a storm gate with the capacity to create a dry dock in the inner Harbor for future development works on a phased basis ( as well as the maintenance of the storm gate itself) . This will also see dredging by 2 meters in this area with a view to providing a non-tidal safe berth for the ferry at a later stage as well as the development of the inner harbor to provide fishing and marina facilities. An ‘optimist’ is described as someone who sees the ‘opportunity in every threat’ and Cormac O’Donoghue and Tomas Mac Gearailt of the Department of the Marine seem to have been truly inspired because the proposed solution to the immediate threat facing the Island creates very significant potential long term benefits. Not least of these, explained Cormac will be the capacity to dry out the Harbour at intervals as funding permits to carry out the proposed longer term developments on a phased basis. Nothing is to be wasted, the spoil from the dredging will be used the create a wider area in front of the Bird Observatory which will improve the access around the Harbor while diverting traffic from the immediate vicinity of the building. The proposed slipway to the North of the Harbour, essential for the Harbour works themselves will also confer a long term benefit on the island. Cormac also showed himself to be acutely aware of local sensitivities when he explained that the preservation of the beach in North Harbor at all costs was a priority in the design works. This is the only sandy beach on the Island and is a very important focal point for children and adults alike during the summer. For this reason the design maintains the same opening to the Harbor to the extent of keeping the same outer shape to the Bulls Nose itself. In this way the waves entering this part of the Harbor will remain unchanged in order to leave the beach as it is. Following the formal presentations there was a very constructive question and answer session where various details of the proposed developments were discussed and there was a great willingness to take account of practical concerns expressed and recommendations made. Speaking informally afterwards, John Norris that it was refreshing to attended a public meeting where everyone was positive and “knew what they were talking about”. Visiting seafarers from further afield and especially the sailing fraternity will be comforted to know that the Island Community, including fisherman and ferrymen also have their interests at heart and clearly outlined the difficulties caused to them by the present piling and inadequate facilities generally and all concerned are resolved to provide improved harbor facilities for all harbor users. There is a strong commitment within the Department to this project which seems to be echoed by Minister Simon Coveney who recently discussed the matter with Mairtín Ó Mealóid, Manager of Comharchumann Chleire Teo. The Minister realizes that the imminent collapse of the Bulls Nose would be catastrophic to the Island Community. The only works that can be funded in the present straitened times are remedial works of an emergency nature and the proposed Cape Clear works clearly fall into this category. Towards the end of the meeting all those present indicated by an overwhelming show of hands their support for the proposed developments. There remain various hurdles not least planning permission, foreshore license, Natura study and funding. It is proposed to start these applications in September and all going well with funding approved in next year’s budget the works could start in April or May 2013. Given the nature of and the location of most of these works the disruption to the working Harbor will be quite minimal. The Community of Oileán Chléire look forward to a successful outcome to all this and that all those in a position to move the project forward will do the very best they can. Many also expressed awareness of and appreciation of the thoroughness of the studies and design works to date and corresponding confidence in the ability of the team concerned to deliver the best result for all concerned. Séamus Ó Drisceoil.

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