Haifa Beaches Urgently Need More Sand to Survive, Environmental Report Warns

Beaches have shrunk as a result of building constructed in the area, blocking the natural source of sand.

Haifa’s Bat Galim beach.
Itzik-Ben Malki

The beaches north of Haifa Port are in danger of disappearing unless they are supplemented by huge amounts of sand, according to a new report written for the Environmental Protection Ministry.

Structures built in the sea block the natural supply of sand on the beaches and result in waves drawing off the sand still there, the report says. As a result, the beaches have shrunk over the years.

The report was written by Prof. Dov Zviely, an expert on beaches, in the framework of recent discussions at the ministry on the impact of the construction of a new fence at the Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures fuel farm next to the beach in the Haifa Bay suburb of Kiryat Haim.

Last week, the Haifa Magistrate’s Court issued a stop-work order for the fence, at the request of the Haifa municipality.

Haifa Bay has 13 kilometers (8 miles) of beaches, some that were already reduced by the construction of the port’s breakwater back in 1932. In recent years the situation has worsened.

Temporary construction by Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures about six years ago blocked the natural flow of sand from the south and, according to Zviely, reduced the width of the beach by 30 percent to 50 percent. Even after the temporary structure was dismantled, the beach failed to return to its previous size.

The sand that is left is more sensitive to the impact of storms, with the result that large quantities of sand were swept away in the storm of 2010.

Over the past two years, Israel Ports has begun to construct a new port with a breakwater that blocks the formation of sand, especially at the Kiryat Haim beach. At the same time, Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures has begun building its fence.

The ministry has demanded that Israel Ports artificially provide sand to the beaches, which the company has done over the past few months. According to Zviely’s report, 120,000 cubic meters of artificially supplied sand are required – a quantity much larger than that supplied so far by Israel Ports.

It is still unclear how Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures and Israel Ports will share responsibility for providing sand.

The ministry also demanded that Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures divert its new fence eastward, which it has refused to do. It says the fence was approved by the ministry.

The ministry responded that Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures was building the fence “with disregard for its environmental impact,” and that “Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures and Israel Ports bear responsibility for increased erosion of the beaches opposite the fence at Kiryat Haim.”

The ministry said it is therefore requiring Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures to pledge to supply and pay for 100,000 cubic meters of sand and believes construction of the fence should stop until this pledge is made.