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Bertra and Mulranny lose Blue Flags


Mayo County Council are on site at Bertra beach at present working on the reinstatement of the popular beach.
?Mayo County Council are on site at Bertra beach at present working on the reinstatement of the popular beach.?Pic: Mayo County Council

Storm damage leaves Bertra and Mulranny beaches without Blue Flags

County council progressing repair works

Áine Ryan

COASTAL devastation caused by this winter’s storms has led to two of Co Mayo’s most popular beaches, Bertra and Mulranny, losing their Blue Flag status. Ongoing repair works have precluded the spectacular beaches from achieving the status afforded to ten of the county’s most pristine beaches: Ross Killala, Elly Bay, Mullaghroe, Golden Strand, Dugort, Keem, Keel, Dooega, Clare Island and Carrowmore. A third beach, situated in Rossbeigh, Co Kerry, also lost its Blue Flag status because of repair works.
Mayo County Council has said that repair works at both Bertra and Mulranny are progressing, and that the beaches are expected to ‘be fully operational within the next two weeks’.    
A spokesman for the local authority said: “It is regretted that Bertra Beach and Mulranny Beach, both of which were significantly damaged by the winter storms, were unable to attain Blue Flag status for this season. While both beaches meet bathing water quality and most of the other Blue Flag criteria it has not been possible to meet all the criteria required for Blue Flag status at the commencement of the current bathing season on June 1.”
Both beaches will ‘be maintained and serviced to Blue Flag standard throughout the bathing season and will be eligible for inclusion in the 2015 Blue Flag programme’, the statement continued.
Citing the important location of Bertra as part of the Clew Bay Complex Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Director of Services for the Westport area, Martin Keating, said the winter storms ‘allowed the high seas to overwhelm coastal defences causing damage to the road leading into the beach, destruction of the car park and significant damage to the coastal defences including a 150m breach of the dune system in the central part of the beach’.
The beach, which is located near the scenic village of Murrisk and in the shadow of holy mountain Croagh Patrick, is also part of the Clew Bay Complex proposed Natural Heritage Area (pNHA) and within the area of Clew Bay designated as an EU Shellfish Water.
Mr Keating detailed the extent of the devastation, which destroyed gabion defences, hurled the rock armour around the beach causing it to be hazardous to bathers and dug up the entire car park.
“There is a 150-metre breach in the narrowest part of the tombolo which now lies exposed and vulnerable to future wind and water erosion,” Martin Keating said.

Protection plan
SOME  months ago Mayo County Council retained environmental consultants, RPS to review the methods for managing the beach and to prepare a plan ‘sympathetic with the environmental objectives sought by the Habitats Directive’.
“RPS have identified a number of solutions to provide protection in [Bertra] beach where a risk to public safety has been identified and also where significant erosion has the potential to occur. The recommended ‘soft engineering works’ and ‘earthworks’ have been classified in terms of priority – short-, medium- and long-term measures,” Mr Keating continued.
The short-term measures identified in RPS’s Appropriate Assessment Screening and Environmental Management Plan have now been sent to the National Parks and Wildlife Services, and it is hoped  that these measures — removal of damaged gabions, relocation of rock armour, rebuilding of shingle ridge and clean-up of car park to ensure safe public access — will be completed for the summer season. However, access to the beach will be restricted during these works.   
“When the works are complete access to the beach will be restored, however the car parking then available will be quite limited in the short term. Mayo County Council is progressing plans to build a new car park in the general vicinity as soon as possible and a park-and-ride arrangement between Westport Town and Bertra Beach is also being considered,” he added.
Eighty Blue Flags were awarded by An Taisce last week to beaches and marinas across the State  — six more than last year. The awards recognise high water quality, safety provision and infrastructure around 5,000km of Irish coastline.