Montrose dunes emergency

Added on February 22nd, 2021 by Lorne Smith
Posted in Conservationism


FineGolf  has turned up further research and some interesting new information since reporting on Royal Montrose’s dune erosion emergency that threatens the world’s fifth oldest golf course and the adjacent low lying town.

Aquamonitor photo of Montrose Bay showing blue: erosion/loss and green: accretion/growth. Click to enlarge.

The AquaMonitor website that tracks the world’s loss/gain of coastal land shows loss at the south of Montrose Bay alongside the course and gain at the north of the Bay, where the dredger UKD Marlin was seen at work last year.

Research published in Nature Magazine calculate that 24% of the world’s coasts are eroding at more than 0.5metre p.a., 28% are growing and 48% are stable. This finding is consistent with a recent analysis that found that ‘Earth’s surface gained…33,700 km2 of land in coastal areas’. While this is a miniscule increase relative to the global land area, it is inconsistent with the notion that land (in aggregate) is disappearing. Indur Goklany’s recent GWPF report ‘Impacts of climate change, perception and reality’ (section six, p.14) gives the latest summary of evidence of sea-level rise.

This evidence suggests that the well measured, modest, consistent rise over the last 150 years is not creating a climate change emergency or any need for anything more than sea defence adaptation. The Environmental Agency’s (EA) politically motivated overall policy of ‘giving the land back to the sea’ is not justified on this evidence and sea defence adaptation policy decisions should be left to be taken locally.

A nine minute video, published in 2016, has come to light that covers the erosion effect on the Montrose dunes at the end of GSK’s rock armour that protects their industrial site between the South Esk river and the golf course. The video also explains how the coastal dunes system was in balance before some two million m3 of sediment was dredged from the river in the period since the 1970s.

FineGolf is unaware of anybody who does not support the Montrose Port Authority (MPA) in its desire to keep open the port for deeper shipping access as part of helping the local economy, but surely the environmental impact on the eroding dunes beyond GSK’s rock armour needs to be recognised rather than just blaming nebulous ‘climate change’?

A map of UKD Marlin’s moves in January 2021. Click to enlarge.

The dredger’s licence was changed last year reducing it to one year from the usual three and it required help be given in re-charging the Montrose beach. The licence is due for renewal this spring. The angle of repose of the Montrose beach will not be helped by the dredger’s movements in January 2021, as can be seen from this map!

The sea current’s northward drift and the results of Angus Council’s ‘particle tracking’ survey seems to have been forgotten in MPA’s assumed perverse logic that the river estuary to the south of Montrose Bay will have to be dredged more often (at large cost) if spoil is dumped along the golf course rather than in Lunan Bay just to the south. Has there not been an independent study into the migration of this sand that surely is most likely, with the ebb flow from the river, to re-charge sandbanks out in the North Sea?

Dredging costs have increased by over 200% in the last forty years and google search gives it now at between £10-£15 per m3. Dredging is regulated and the MPA licence allows for up to 246,000 m3 per year to be dredged. The Marlin uses a Trailer Hopper Suction method and there are also other dredging methods and they all have different environmental impacts. Dredged material is increasingly regarded as a resource rather than as a waste. For example, the cost of sand is rising fast.

One thing is for sure; ‘a managed retreat’ of the golf course, as favoured by the Environment Agency policy approved in the 2000s, is not the ultimate solution. Such a policy will not only reduce the enjoyment of those playing Royal Montrose, deter golf tourism and undermine the Club’s finances. Unlike at Royal North Devon, England’s oldest golf course, where the Club has been forced to follow EA policy and its dunes have been breached,  and only(!), apart from the course, a medical waste tip is threatened, at Montrose the town itself could be flooded.

‘Heads in the sand’ would seem here an appropriate pun to make at this point.

It would be good if people at Scottish government level and at the Environment Agency were made aware of the above facts. If they had any thought for British golf heritage and a concern for Montrose town, they would prioritise the re-charge of the Montrose beach while ensuring funding leadership is put in place for a longer term sea defence solution.

Unfortunately, based on failures since the millennium, one has to ask when is this game of passing the buck between the politicians, scientists and academics going to stop?

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