Great wall of Port

FREMANTLE council will build a long, expensive seawall across Port Beach to protect its assets from coastal erosion.

At Wednesday’s monthly meeting, the council committed to the seawall to protect Coast restaurant, the old surf club and public toilets, but a coastal engineer’s report says ultimately the sea will reclaim the area.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said it had become obvious the council had to stage a “managed retreat” from the existing coastline.

“What we have agreed to, subject to co-funding from the state government, is a rock wall intended to protect these assets, which we aim to have built before winter,” Dr Pettitt said.

The council will also investigate using dredged sand to top up Port Beach as a stop-gap measure while it develops more concrete plans for the drawn-out retreat.

Dredging was the highest-ranked option in the report prepared for the council by coastal engineers MP Rogers and Associates, but it comes with a hefty price tag.

According to their estimates, the up-front capital costs are $2.5 million, followed by nearly $200,000 in annual operating costs.

Dr Pettitt said the seawall would also run into the “hundreds of thousands of dollars”, which the council couldn’t afford on its own.

Rogers’ report noted few state funding options open to the council for anything but the most piddling capital works, but Dr Pettitt said the council had an “expectation” the McGowan government would pitch in.

“I get the sense that the state government understands the importance of this,” Dr Pettitt said.

He doesn’t believe it will open the floodgates to any coastal council putting its hand out for help, saying Port Beach and Thomson Bay on Rottnest Island had been identified as the state’s  two highest-risk coastlines.

“I don’t think this is going to set an awful precedent,” he said.

Dr Pettitt said the council had also been holding talks with developers, including Pindan, about their plans to redevelop the nearby Caltex and Shell sites for residential housing.

He wants them to take a leaf out of the previous Leighton Beach development and set their housing well back so the coast won’t affect them for decades.

“It’s early days, but their planning staff seemed to get that,” Dr Pettitt said.

Earlier this week one of the problems with seawalls, which was flagged in Rogers’ report, came to pass when an octogenarian badly injured her foot when she tripped on a rock which had slipped from earlier remediation work and become half-buried in the sand.

Regular beach user Paul Gabbedy was right behind her when the accident occurred and called on the council to do more to ensure the area was safe for users.

Dr Pettitt said he hadn’t heard of the incident, but said it emphasised why a staged retreat was the best option.

“Do you really want rock walls all the way along your beach,” he said.

by STEVE GRANT

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