North Fremantle buildings on verge of collapse after storms erode coastline
Last week, bulldozers began dumping tonnes of sand in front of buildings theatening to collapse into the ocean at North Fremantle. The danger was caused by heavy erosion following a recent series of storms that removed much of the dunes at Port Beach.
Part of the retaining wall near Coast restaurant completely collapsed, and large slabs of concrete fell onto the sand. The path leading from the beach to the change rooms also caved in and had to be blocked off.
The sand, however, wasn't taken offshore but moved northwards with longshore drift towards Leighton Beach. That sand was dug up by a front-end loader and tipped back in front of the Coast bar building, changerooms, and Fremantle surf club annex at Port Beach. It's a temporary move to give immediate protection to the buildings as the Council considers making a sea wall.
A front-end loader being used to dump sand back along the Port Beach coastline (Photo ABC News/Nicolas Perpitch)
The council said it was aware the new sand could be washed away in the next storm. "We're also looking into the possibility of building some temporary rock walls to provide more protection to the facilities at the beach in the event of further storms," Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said.
No major storms are forecast for Perth over the next week, however the problems will stretch out much further than that.
Beach remains closed as damage assessed
City of Fremantle staff, coastal engineers and representatives from the Department of Transport assessed the damage from the storms, but Port Beach, including nearby Sand Tracks, remains closed and signs have been put up warning people to stay away and out of the water.
The Port Beach coastline has been hammered by recent storms, leaving buildings in danger (Photo City of Fremantle)
The damage is the latest in a series of events on the stretch of coast. In May last year, storms caused severe erosion, large chunks of the carpark fell away, walkways collapsed, and sand dunes disappeared, exposing potentially hazardous metal and wooden poles at the water line. Industrial debris and rocks — dumped there from port-related infrastructure over the decades — are still visible in the shallows along the reclaimed coastal stretch.
A 2004 Department of Planning and Infrastructure study on coastal erosion at Port Beach found Sand Tracks was eroding at a rate of about two metres per year and Port Beach by 0.8 metres per year, while Leighton Beach was growing.
The Port Beach carpark has been undercut by erosion after storms in recent years (Photo City of Fremantle)
It said Port Beach had previously been expanding, mainly because of 10 million cubic tonnes of dredge material dumped along the shoreline and further offshore between 1890 and 1970.
"This dredge material has been moving onshore and providing an artificial supply of sand to Port Beach for many years. This sand feed has now stopped," the report said. "This erosion trend is expected to continue."
"This will progressively reduce beach amenity and leave car parks and existing buildings increasingly vulnerable to storm erosion."
The council said a draft report providing long-term options to manage the erosion at Port Beach was expected to be released for public comment later next month.
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