Pic: Anton McNulty
Higher tides and stronger storms causing damage to new pier
The cracks started to appear on the pier in Inishbiggle during the 2014 winter storms, and with every high tide and storm since, those cracks have grown wider.
The new €304,000 pier and floating jetty at Gob na Dumhaí on Inishbiggle was opened by former Minister for the Gaeltacht Éamon Ó Cuív in February 2004 and was one of a number of infrastructure projects built to service the island at the time.
“They did a fine job and the workmanship was 100 percent. You could not fault it,” local boatman Michael Lenehan told The Mayo News. “At the time there was around €600,000 spent on the pier here in Inishbiggle and at the Ballycroy side (Doran’s Point). We have a great structure here. It was a great investment for the island at the time.”
The island, located between Ballycroy and Achill Island, currently has a permanent population of 18 people. Michael operates a licensed daily boat service linking the island with Ballycroy and says the summer months are very busy with The Wild Atlantic Way and the Ballycroy National Park bringing extra people into the area.
However, he said that every passing winter brings more damage and deterioration to the Inishbiggle pier.
“It has been happening for the past four years, and every high tide and storm is shredding away at the pier. The water is pulling the retaining concrete blocks away from the pier, and it is subsiding, with cracks in the wall.
“It was the storms in 2014 that started the damage; up to then it was perfect. But every high tide and storm since is softening up the pier and causing more damage. It is hard to believe what the tide can do … the tides are definitely getting higher over the last number of years, you can see it. It is frightening really what can happen,” he explained as he pointed to the damage.
A section of the tarmacadamed road leading to the top of the pier has been washed away by the tide, replaced by shingle and stone from the tide. When the new pier was built, a number of mesh gabion baskets filled with rock were placed on the northern side to protect against coastal erosion. However, they have nearly been covered over by stone thrown up by the sea.
“You would think the stone was placed there by a machine looking at it. There was no stone there when the baskets were placed there but now the stone is level with the baskets and will be soon covering them over. It has all be washed up by storms in the last couple of years.”
Michael fears that unless remedial work is carried out on the pier soon, the damage will only get worse and eventually the pier will be deemed too expensive to repair.
“The walls will have to be raised by another four foot to stop the stone coming over the pier and rock armour placed in the sea to protect it further. We are asking all the different agencies, Mayo County Council, the OPW, Roinn na Gaeltachta, and the ESB as well because it is affecting their power lines, to come on board and help us.
“There are 18 people on the island and the pier is used full time, with tourists using it in the summer. We know it will cost a few pound to do, but something has to be done soon. The situation is bad at the moment, but it will only get worse.
“If the pier continues to be damaged it will cause difficulties here on the island … it will be difficult to keep going through the year.”