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There is not enough money to replace the sand on all the affected beaches

The maritime situation in this 2022 has registered a singular fact and that has misplaced the experts in the matter. The usual storms from mid-October to the end of January or the beginning of February have passed on tiptoe, without altering Tarragona’s beaches too much, but in March they have reactivated causing this destruction and loss of sand at the gates of the summer campaign. And this environmental problem has redirected its gaze to the General Directorate of State Coasts.

Each year, this provincial department has a budget of 250,000 euros to cover the Annual Maintenance and Conservation Program for the beaches, an insufficient amount to cover the 270 kilometers of coastline. So far in 2022, 100,000 euros have already been spent and the remaining item must be divided into priority actions: Altafulla, Roda de Berà and Tarragona. This means that the amount that will remain for the rest of the municipalities is derisory, sources from the Government Subdelegation admit, and for this reason an extraordinary item of more than 1.5 million euros has been requested from Madrid. At the moment, there is no answer.

Tarragona is the only Catalan province where the contributions of sand are paid for directly by the State. In the province of Girona this payment is made by the municipalities and in Barcelona there are mixed formulas, government sources admit.

The cost of a cubic meter of sand is around 5 or 10 euros and if it is not to be moved far away, an amount less than 2,000 cubic meters would not exceed a budget of 20,000 euros.

The delay in the arrival of the storms has altered the schedule for replenishing sand on the beaches of Tarragona. The forecast of the General Directorate of Coasts is to be able to act at the end of this month and to be able to finish before Sant Joan, the beginning of summer and the bathing season. This planning does not please the municipalities, who see that with the good weather in May, people already go to the beach and this, in some points, is not in conditions. The municipal criticisms are seconded by the tourist and commercial sector of these towns.

Sources from the Subdelegation emphasize that they cannot provide sand when there are still storms “because it will be wasting money and sand in vain”, they explain, and that this year if extraordinary aid does not arrive there will be municipalities to which it will not be possible to contribute. sand (or the quantity that they would like).

The temporary Glory

The coast of Tarragona is like a patient who slowly recovers from a serious illness, in this case the arrival of storm Gloria in 2020. A patient who recovered satisfactorily until he relapsed with storm Filomena, in 2021, and who now, being very weak, it has suffered a series of concatenated storms that has left the coastal situation “in the UCI”.

Expert sources point out that this chain of storms and outside the autumn and winter season is unusual and “it will take time to see them again”, explain the same sources, but it has raised the public debate on how we should act to protect the coastline and be able to exploit it touristically with guarantees.

“The replacement of sand is the current solution that only serves to patch a problem that requires a more in-depth analysis,” sources from the Subdelegation explain. The debate focuses on which method is the most effective to combat storms and reduce sand loss.

At the same time, a study of the dynamics of the coastline from Torredembarra to the Port of Tarragona has been commissioned in order to have a scientific basis for proceeding. The study could be completed by the end of this year or early 2023.

The solutions: Dunes, submerged breakwaters or de-urbanization

One of the options proposed is a dune system that allows a natural regeneration of the beach and manages to stop regression. The naturalist option is valid, but not for all beaches.

It requires a width, to dissipate the energy of the storms and, if possible, some final lagoons that balance the ecosystem. But on beaches that are not wide enough or the topography does not allow it, what do we do? Subdelegation sources point out that the other options are setbacks or submerged jetties.

In the first case, the example is in La Pineda, where there is a project for the beach to ‘eat’ part of the promenade and gain space inland. In La Pineda it is possible because it has a second road that allows it to manage the urban part, in addition to the courage of a government to give up walking space for the renaturalization of the beach.

This option is complex, since not in all the 270 kilometers of coastline there is enough space to be able to gain beach inland. And in these cases where neither dunes nor setbacks are possible, the option of submerged jetties to retain the sand would be a third alternative, as long as scientific studies validate it.

Until then, the sand-patched solution at the gates of summer will be the only option to recover beaches.

  • Beaches
  • temporary
  • sand
  • regression
  • temporary glory

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