SPECIAL REPORT: Flooding aftermath in Waterville

Examining the damage to Waterville promenade are, from left, Darragh Crowley, Niall Dennehy, Norma Moriarty, Waterville Tidy Towns chairman Brendan Donnelly, Eugene Dennehy, and Tony Donnelly. Pic: Valerie O'Sullivan

THE people of Waterville, on the Ring of Kerry, proudly describe the village promenade as their gem and are seriously concerned about storm damage to a rock protection barrier laid down in the late 1990s.

The prom in Waterville on the — famous as the birthplace of Gaelic football colossus Mick O’[url=http://http://www.irishexaminer.com/archives/2012/0618/ireland/oaposdwyer-to-be-immortalised-in-bronze-in-waterville-197871.html]Dwyer and holiday haven of film legend Charlie Chaplin — is a delightful feature, beloved of locals and visitors alike.

However, if the promenade is breached by the sea, the main N70 road will then be under threat. The sea is only nine metres from the road at its narrowest point.

In the January 6 storm, sections of the walkway, rock armour, and stone walls were damaged. Repairs will cost €325,000, the council estimates in its submission for funding to the Office of Public Works.

Temporary work has been done by the council, but Waterville Tidy Towns chairman Brendan Donnelly said permanent, structural repairs need to be focused on a 500m section at the southern end of the promenade.

“There has been significant slippage and undermining of retaining boulders which, if left as they are, will result in the collapse of the promenade and encroachment of the tide on to the N70 road,” he added.

Some of the rocks were dislodged and washed onto the walkway, with stones ending up on the road. Upwards of 60 people, some with tractors, took part in a voluntary clean-up, but a high tide will come again in early March.

By the way, much-photographed statues of Mick O’Dwyer and Charlie Chaplin, about 100m apart on the seaward side of the road, have withstood the elements.

Local Fine Gael councillor PJ Donovan, alluding to voluntary work already done by the people of Waterville, said they would be prepared to do additional necessary work if the council supplied the materials.

Like other golf clubs along the west coast, the Waterville club has to protect its famous links from the Atlantic. Its defences have come through the toughest test yet and it’s business as usual, according to general manager Noel Cronin.

“Over 10 years ago, Dr Jimmy Murphy, from UCC, planned rock armour protection, with a membrane between the rocks and the dunes, and it has stood up to everything so far,” said Mr Cronin.

A little further north on the Iveragh Peninsula, the tiny beach at Kells Bay is in a sheltered cove but took a vicious hammering in recent storms, with repair costs estimated at over €150,000 by Kerry County Council.

The 250m beach, just off the Ring of Kerry, is used by locals and visitors and is popular with families. However, access is barred at present because a car park has been completely swept away.

Most of the money will be spent on backfilling and resurfacing the car park, rebuilding damaged walls, restoring rock armour, and underpinning retaining walls.

Locals emphasise the importance of completing the work before the start of the summer season.

“The bay and the beach are vital to the local economy,” said Pat Kavanagh, manager of Foilmore/Kells IRD.

“Each storm has left huge structural changes that must be dealt with urgently. We’ve never seen such destruction here.”

Fortunately, Kells pier, which is used by up to 30 sea angling boats and pleasure craft in summer time, has not been damaged. However, the car park has to be repaired to restore access to the beach and pier.

Independent councillor Michael Cahill stressed that remedial work at Kells needed to be done quickly, given the importance of the facilities to locals and visitors.

Mr Kavanagh called on the Government to apply for aid from the EU Solidarity Fund which, he added, was available to deal with regional disasters and emergency situations such as those currently affecting the Irish coastline.

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