Kouga Municipality has rolled out an ambitious new plan to address the controversy around the causeway between Paradise Beach and Aston Bay at Jeffreys Bay.
The municipality is set to start pumping water from the Seekoei estuary on Monday in an attempt to clear the causeway from water and increase the safety of motorists. The causeway is the main access route to Paradise Beach.
Executive Mayor Elza van Lingen said the municipality had an urgent meeting yesterday with stakeholders, including the Department of Environmental Affairs, Department of Water and Sanitation and the Department of Roads and Public Works, to identify short, medium and long-term solutions to the problem.
The meeting was called after heavy rains and stormy seas increased the water levels of the Seekoei estuary to such an extent that the causeway became submerged.
“There is an alternative gravel road, but it tends to become slushy when it rains. This means that many Paradise Beach residents are, in effect, cut off from the rest of the world when the causeway is submerged,” Mayor Van Lingen explained.
She said breaching the estuary mouth artificially to lower the water levels was not an option.
“The law does not allow for it because breaching the mouth artificially could actually increase the risk of properties along the embankments flooding,” she explained.
“It was, therefore, agreed that the best alternative would be to pump water from the estuary. Our aim is to drop the water level by 15cm to 20cm.”
She said the municipality had hoped to get the pumps going by Friday afternoon but that the service provider had since indicated that they would only be able to start on Monday due to the set-up requirements.
“We are also looking at ways, including floats and velocity breakers, to minimise the chop of the water and limit the amount of spray that washes over the causeway surface,” she added.
She said the municipality had earlier this year entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Nelson Mandela University for the drawing up of an Estuarine Management Plan that will enable Council to make an informed decision about a permanent, long-term solution.
“The team will be having public meetings towards the end of September and we expect the plan to be finalised by March 2018. The information the team has collected to date has, however, been invaluable in helping us to identify possible solutions.”
She said a serious point of concern that had been raised by Prof Tris Wooldridge, of the research team, was that little to no fresh water was flowing into the estuary because of the large amount of irrigation dams in the Seekoei and Swart Rivers.
“In the long-term we need to restore the estuary to its natural state because this is the only way to mitigate the flood risk to properties and infrastructure in the vicinity. In order to achieve this, fresh water needs to flow into the system.
“Not all of the dams in the Seekoei and Swart Rivers are legal. The Department of Water and Sanitation has undertaken to address this as a matter of urgency so that illegal dams can be removed and the fresh water flow restored,” she said.
“There are also fresh-water ponds in Paradise Beach that we suspect used to flow into the system and we are looking at ways to link these ponds back up to the estuary.”
She said the Eastern Cape Department of Roads and Public Works, under whose jurisdiction the alternative gravel road falls, had undertaken to ensure that the road is properly maintained.
“To tar this section will cost R80-million or more and the Department is frank about the fact that they do not have funding at this stage. We will, however, ensure that the tarring of the road is on our Integrated Development Plan for future planning purposes.”
The Mayor thanked all roleplayers, including Paradise Beach residents, for rallying together in a time of crisis.
“There’s a lot of hard work that lies ahead but we are pleased that we are now in a position to take action in the interest of our communities,” she said.