Israel Plans Six New Marinas That Will Bite Off Chunks of Its Shoreline

Zafrir Rinat
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Kite surfers in the water during stormy weather off a beach in the Israeli Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv in 2020.
Kite surfers in the water during stormy weather off a beach in the Israeli Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv in 2020. Credit: MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP
Zafrir Rinat

The Israeli Environmental Protection Ministry, along with other environmental groups, are vehemently opposing a plan, which will be brought up for government approval next week, to build six new marinas on local beaches, saying it would strike a severe blow to the shores.

For the past two years, architecture firm Lerman has been preparing a national master plan of marinas for the Transportation Ministry’s Shipping and Ports Authority and the Planning Administration. As part of the plan, the existing supply of moorage spots for boats was examined along with ways to meet the demand for additional moorage spaces.

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The plan will be presented to the National Planning and Building subcommittee.

The Israeli coastline by the Mediterranean Sea.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

At present, Israel has 2,570 moorage slots in seven marinas. The plan’s authors predict that by 2040, demand in Israel will surpass 13,000 moorage slots, with the vast majority – 11,000 – being for private vessels and only 840 for educational purposes and water sports.

In order to meet the anticipated demand, the plan proposes that six new marinas be built in Nahariya, Haifa (Bat Galim), Hadera, Netanya, Tel Aviv and Bat Yam, based on the premise that expansion of activity at the existing marinas or in facilities like the Reading marina, which is currently used by the power stations, will not be sufficient.

The planners rejected a proposal to expand the Tel Aviv port westward to increase the number of moorage slots there. For various reasons, the possibility of building marinas in Kiryat Haim and Rishon Letzion was also ruled out.

In Tel Aviv, the marina will be built in the area of the Tel Baruch beach, as an extension of the existing marina at Reading. The new marinas will provide an additional 3,400 moorage slots. Ultimately, together with the expansion of the existing marinas, less than 60 percent of the anticipated demand will be met. In the north, 90 percent of the demand could be met.

At the hearing next week, the planning committee will have to decide whether to approve the alternative of new marinas. If the plan is approved, it will go to the National Planning Council for final approval, and then each marina can be advanced by a specific plan.

The plan’s authors depict the marinas not just as a place for boats but as an important engine for tourism and economic activity. “The marina constitutes part of the city’s attractiveness and its economic foundation,” says the document that the planners presented ahead of next week’s hearing. “It provides direct income from moorage fees, as well as income from visitors and tourism in the marina’s adjacent urban area.”

The Netanya and Hadera municipalities have already expressed strong support for building the marinas. The Hadera municipality said: “The city supports the construction of a marina in Hadera and has begun to prepare for the project. The municipality has conducted a review of the environmental effects which showed that the physical conditions are suitable for building a moorage complex. City officials believe the marina will boost Hadera as a tourist city with the construction of a boardwalk and a commercial, entertainment and business zone along the shoreline. It will bolster the western side of the city that is in the process of development.”

Construction of the marinas in Herzliya, Ashdod and Ashkelon in the 1990s caused heavy damage to the beaches. It stole a significant chunk of the beaches in these cities and blocked the natural flow of the sand. As a result, the bathing beaches to the north of the marinas became narrower and the impact of the waves striking the shoreline cliff increased in the absence of the broad strip of sand that protected it in the past. The result is that the cliffs in Herzliya and Ashkelon are now crumbling, and the local authorities are struggling to deal with the problem.

The authors of the new plan presented a survey they conducted of the Hadera shore, which said damage is not anticipated as a result of the blockage of the sand. But in the past, similar assessments proved mistaken, and such construction ended up causing serious damage.

Another problem connected to the marinas is the way the area behind them is used for construction. In Ashkelon, Herzliya and Ashdod, these areas were used for private construction rather than for construction of tourism projects. According to the present plan, residential and hotel construction will not be permitted within the marina’s territory. However, there is a fear that the marina construction will lead to pressure to build adjacent to it, which would further decrease the open areas next to the shoreline.

Environmental organizations and the Labor Party’s youth division have appealed to Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli to stop the marina plan. The opponents come from more than 10 groups, including Israel’s largest environmental organizations: The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel; Adam, Teva V’Din; and Zalul. The umbrella organization for the green groups, Life & Environment, is also a party to the effort.

In their letter, the organizations note that the beaches available to the Israeli public have already shrunk significantly and that there is no justification to reduce it even further for the benefit of private vessels that serve a very small group. They say that expanding the existing marinas could meet the needs of water sports, which is of public importance.

“Every marina steals a kilometer from the coast that could be used for bathing, hiking, surfing and other marine activity,” the letter says. The plan’s opponents note that the existing marinas have not become tourist hubs, so there is no basis for the argument that the new marinas will help develop tourism in the coastal cities. The organizations also stress that building the marinas also steals nesting grounds from sea turtles and harms rocky natural habitats in the sea adjacent to the marina.

A spokesman for Michaeli responded: “The minister is vehemently opposed to any plan that will harm Israel’s beaches where construction and development has been done irresponsibly for years. If any marina is built, it will only be done after scrupulous planning, and it is convincingly shown to be of national urgency, and only if it will not harm the beaches that are open to the public.”

It is not clear from this response whether Michaeli will try to stop the plan’s approval, or if she will only review a plan for a marina when it reaches the detailed design stage.

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg has also expressed strong opposition to the new plan. On Monday, while speaking at the Marine Space Conference held at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, Zandberg said: “Plans are emerging that seek to expropriate preserved and sensitive beaches and coastal areas in favor of a marina establishment. We must not allow this, the environmental and economic price is too high.”

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