Decision on canals delayed for at least another year – By Bev Mortimer:
St Francis Bay’s canal homes and their only protection for the sea – the dune spit – are at the mercy of the waves for up to another year.
This follows the decision by Kouga Council to investigate the method of funding of the project to protect the dune Spit on the St Francis canals and to conduct research into alternative methods of protecting the dune spit in the future.
The St Francis Bay Riparian Home Owners Association is deeply disappointed in the Kouga Municipality’s decision to delay the implementation of the proposed revetments along the dune spit. In a statement it said: “We hope and pray there is not a breach of the spit during the forthcoming storm season. We have, however, done all in our power to try to rectify this situation, but unfortunately the decision has gone against us”.
Marine scientists who know this coastline well, have warned that the Spit may breach in Spring this year – if this happens canal homes could be flooded and they and the canals themselves could be badly damaged, if not destroyed.
At a Council meeting on 29 July 2012, Kouga Council was tasked on taking a decision on whether to implement the “controversial levy” on each canal home owner (bar those suffering from hardship, such as old age pensioners) or not. The levy was to pay for rock revetments to fortify the dune spit, thus protecting canal homes from the sea. An approval through an EIA costing almost R300 000 was granted for rock revetments by the Department of Environmental Affairs and this approval expires in August this year.
The municipality invited comment from canal home owners following a court order initiated by the Riparian Homeowners Association that impelled the municipality to act on the fate of the canals. The council meeting was told the raising of the proposed ‘once off riparian levy’ had been very contentious. About 180 comments were received and more votes were against the levy than for the levy.
“Various letters of support and objections have been received. Council should be advised that they cannot merely disregard objections raised, but should evaluate each objection received for relevance and substance,” the Council noted.
Council advised that the main reasons received for support for the levy are the negative impact on the value of canal properties if the sea breaches the dune spit and flows into the canals which could impact the ability of the canals to reticulate the flow of water.
The main objections received are:
* All St Francis Bay property owners should be included, linked to existing property valuations and applied proportionately.
* The levy is regarded as a loan to the municipality repayable against the rates account.
* Have any steps been taken to obtain funds in terms of the Disaster Management Fund Act No. 5712002?
* Method of repair will not work. Consideration should be given to sand bags (lack of research into alternative solutions)
* Levy is not affordable. Municipality responsible to protect dune spit as it is on a Public Open Space.
* Legal action will be taken if the levy is instituted.
The municipality says that from the above the following is clear:
* The Method of funding should be investigated and alternative research should be done on how the dune spit can be protected;
* Plus possible legal action can be instituted.
The Riparian Association further states: “Of concern to us is the monies that have already been outlaid to facilitate the building of revetments, starting with the EIA, retaining the services of an engineer, and an environmental officer. We wish to report that we were given permission by the Municipality to go ahead with the application and it is hoped that these monies will be recovered from the Municipality as it is their decision alone that has delayed the process.”
The Association adds that it hopes a decision for a solution will be reached urgently to safeguard the canal system and maintain the value of all the concerned properties.
* The municipality revealed shortly before the print edition went to press press that a request for the environmental authorisation for rock revetments to be extended for a further year has already been submitted to Environmental affairs and their response is awaited.
Read more in the print edition of St Francis Chronicle out by 5/6 July 2012
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