Expansion of Valencia port spells dramatic loss of Albufera beaches

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VALENCIA – Researchers have revealed alarming facts about coastal reduction in Valencia. The northern expansion of Valencia Port appears to have distressing consequences for the Albufera beaches.

This is according to a recent article published in the journal ‘Urban Science,’ authored by researchers from the Institut Cavanilles at the Universitat de València (UV).

Substantial beach loss

The research indicates that the most significant decline in the beaches of Pinedo, La Garrofera, and El Saler occurred after the construction of the breakwater. Between 2013 and 2022, a staggering 90 hectares of sand were lost. These findings cast doubt on claims that the northern port expansion would have no impact on the coast.

The misleading notion

The idea that the northern expansion of Valencia Port would have no impact was often reiterated by the former president of the Port Authority of Valencia (APV), Aurelio Martínez, in April 2021. He used this argument to refuse a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the contentious project, whose northern breakwater had been completed since 2012. However, this new research from the Universitat de València has demonstrated that the assertion is incorrect.

Dramatic beach reduction

The recent research reveals that the surface area of the beaches of Pinedo, El Saler, and La Garrofera has decreased from 170 hectares of sand in the 1990s to just 43 hectares in 2022, amounting to a loss of 70% in 30 years. These findings are based on satellite imagery, which was used for the first time to measure the sand volume of beaches.

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Impact of port expansion

The study also shows that the expansion of Valencia Port, the construction of Marina Real Juan Carlos I, and preparations for the America’s Cup races are directly linked to the decrease in beach surface area. This is due to sea currents that move sand to the north side of major infrastructure projects while the southern beaches lose sand.

Concerns for the future

The research also highlights the potential consequences of this coastal reduction for the survival of Albufera Lake. Two factors that may impact the salinisation of the lake are mentioned: the narrowing of the isthmus between the sea and the lake and the lack of freshwater inflow as protection against seawater intrusion.

This research also indirectly raises doubts about the relevance of the 2007 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) used to justify the contentious port project, given the significant impact on the beaches resulting from the construction of the northern breakwater.

Read also: Land subsidence on Spanish coast increases the risk of sea level rise

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