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Estuaries breached after rainfall

All the major estuaries within the Overstrand have breached after the heavy rainfall of last week.

The Bot River Estuary was artificially breached on Tuesday 21 July after an application for an emergency breach by CapeNature.

Pierre de Villiers, CapeNature Senior Manager: Marine and Coasts, says the water level at the Bot River Estuary was 2,9 m, which was ideal for the breach. A digger loader was brought in to start digging a huge channel between the estuary and the ocean.

However, a group of fishers from Hawston, who were also at the scene of the artificial breaching, took strong issue with the spot chosen for digging the trench. One pointed out the breaching area was too close to a huge sand dune. “The wind will blow the sand into the trench within a few days, and we need the breach to last for much longer,” he explained.

De Villiers said the water levels where the fishers proposed the breach should be dug were too low. “The trench was dug in line with the old channel to ensure deep water in the estuary opposite the trench, which ensures good scouring,” he said. “The mouth is wide, so there will be sand movement, and the main source of sand is from the ocean and is not wind-driven.”

De Villiers says a breach at this estuary had not occurred for nearly five years. “For an estuary to function it needs to connect to the ocean,” he explained. “Ideally this should happen every two years. The last time the Bot River Lagoon breached was in 2015, also artificially, and naturally in 2012.

“Breaching is necessary to ensure the larvae of marine fish wash into the estuary where it hatches. If the ocean and estuary don’t connect, this cycle is broken. The same applies to prawns, which are a source of food for various bird species such as flamingos.”

The leading coastal conservationist added that the opening of the mouth at Kleinmond Estuary is one factor.

“It increases the urgency of opening at Meer-en-See,” he said. “Once Kleinmond Estuary opens the water slowly seeps out and drops, so no good breach would have happened if we had not done the breach now.”

The Kleinmond Estuary also breached on Friday 17 July, and De Villiers shared his concerns about people digging along the estuary, which is illegal. Residents were also excited about the natural breach of the Klein River Estuary, which had not breached for five years.

De Villiers was also grateful to residents for their patience and support over the years. He says the Klein River breach is one of the biggest estuary breaches he had ever seen.

He said he was satisfied with the breach of the Klein River Estuary, adding that the estuary had a great urban flow and is doing what it needs to do.

“There is a great flow of fresh ocean water flowing in and water flowing out of the estuary,” De Villiers said. “It will be monitored moving forward.”

Many people visited the Klein River Estuary after the breach to witness this long awaited moment.

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