State to Protect Beachside Cliffs at Risk of Collapse

Project aims to shore up 13 kilometers of coastline.

The government yesterday approved a program to protect sea cliffs in danger of collapse along Israel's Mediterranean coast. The plan, which calls for an investment of NIS 500 million, will focus on 13 kilometers of coastline that takes in both urban and archaeological sites, in Ashkelon, Caesarea, Netanya and Herzliya.

Cliff areas along the sea are expected to recede by dozens of meters in coming years, due to erosion caused by winds and waves. It's a process that is only accelerated by construction and irrigation projects. The establishment and expansion of harbors and marinas also contributes to the erosion: Such structures block the flow of sand onto the beaches, thereby depriving the cliffs of natural protective layers to buffer them against waves and winds. Two months ago, stormy winter weather lead to the collapse of some cliff areas, and eighteen months ago a partial cliff collapse led to the death of a beach stroller near Netanya.

Beach cliff
Itzik Ben-Malki

The plan approved at yesterday's cabinet meeting is based on a document drafted by a team that worked under the purview of the Environment Ministry. It calls for the establishment of a government company, to be based in the ministry, that will carry out the physical work of fortification. In parallel, a national plan for the protection of the beaches is being formulated. It in turn will call upon each relevant local council to formulate a detailed plan to protect coastal stretches under its jurisdiction.

Protective measures could include the supply of artificial sand. In fact, the Israel Ports Company is currently installing such artificial sand on beaches in Ashdod and Haifa. Other protective measures can include breakwaters. Local governments are already being encouraged to start planning and implementing projects for coastal stretches classified as being in urgent need of protection.

One organization that took an unprecedented step to deal with an urgent beach problem is the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which last week, installed signs at the Sharon beach park declaring that swimming is absolutely forbidden, due to the danger of sea cliff collapse.

Some protection attempts have proven to be ineffective. One example was the use of protective cloth on the Ashkelon beach, a measure that did not forestall the continued erosion of the sea cliff. Experts insist that protective measure plans need to be examined thoroughly before they are implemented. The preferred technique, they say, is the delivery of artificial sand or stone particles.