Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will this afternoon consider making representations to the Scottish Government for funding to create a second opening in South Ford causeway.
At a meeting of the full council, due to begin at 5pm, members will be asked to vote for government support, given the “exceptional” situation at South Ford.
Last week, at a meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee, members voted for a package of flood prevention measures for the area, including a beach-recharge scheme for Gualan Island, a natural breakwater forming one section of the South Ford basin.
However, an option to create an additional opening in the South Ford causeway – which the council estimates would cost £20 million – was declined.
On 11th January 2005, hurricane force winds, combined with a high tide, caused unprecedented flooding in the Iochdar region, which is bordered by the South Ford. Five members of the same family lost their lives during the storm.
The South Ford Hydrodynamic Study – commissioned in the wake of the tragedy – laid part of the blame for the severe flooding on the causeway.
It said that an additional deep opening of 250 metres would have likely meant lower water levels on 11th January 2005, and would reduce the risk of flooding in the future.
Locals have consistently demanded an additional opening in the causeway. Many were shocked by the news that an option to create a new span in the causeway had been declined last week.
However, a motion to be put before the full council today by Cllr Ronnie MacKinnon and Cllr Donnie Steele, looks to put the option of a new opening back on the table.
The motion, suggested as further recommendations to the report from last week’s meeting of the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, reads and recommends:
It be delegated to the Director of Technical Services to meet with Stòras Uibhist and local community and other stakeholder groups prior to the application deadline of 4th May 2015 to discuss options associated with the South Ford Flood Risk Management Scheme;
It be delegated to the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Leader, the Convener, the Chair and Vice Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Director of Technical Services, to make further separate representation to the Scottish Government regarding funding to enable the creation of a second opening in the South Ford causeway on the basis of it being an exceptional case.
Earlier today, Angus MacNeil, SNP candidate for the upcoming General Election, said that Crown Estate funds could be used to help fund work on the causeway.
Mr MacNeil said: “I know that the families and the community feel that money allocated to nearby Gualan Island on the west side of the South Ford is not a good use of money.
“Instead this should be allocated to provide the opening in the causeway, along with any monies that may come from the devolution of the Crown Estate to the islands.”
More on this later...