Tiny island community 'endangered' as high tides submerge causeway

Baleshare causeway during a high tide. PIC: ContributedBaleshare causeway during a high tide. PIC: Contributed
Baleshare causeway during a high tide. PIC: Contributed
Baleshare is connected to North Uist by a causeway which is regularly breached by water and debris.

A tiny island community has warned it is being put in danger by the state of its causeway which is regularly breached with water.

Baleshare, which is home to around 70 people, has been connected to North Uist by causeway since the 1960s but residents are finding themselves frequently cut off given the route is easily submerged during high tides.

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The state of the causeway has left people unable to get to work, on occasion, and campaigners have warned of the dangers to both islanders and visitors given the impact of rising water levels, which can quickly leave the route impassable.

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A meeting is due to be held at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Lynda MacLean, of the Communities Fight for Replacement of Unsafe Baleshare Causeway, said: "After the really bad storms of 2005, the majority of causeways had work done to them but Baleshare has not had anything done to it since 2000.

"The causeway is very low lying and you don’t need bad weather for their to be problems. During leap tides, the causeway is impassable.

“Because we live on the island, we know what the risks are. Our concern is that when there is a spring tide or a leap tide, people visiting might not know the dangers.”

She said that bends on the causeway made it hard to see conditions on the central stretch of the crossing.

"You can be on it before you know what you are faced with. Is it going to take a fatality to get something done about it?

"After the last time the causeway was closed, we walked over the causeway to see what state it was in. Rocks had been thrown onto the road. If that had hit someone’s windscreen, they wouldn’t be here to talk about it.”

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Emergency services are tasked with closing the causeway in bad weather although this did not always happen, Ms MacLean said.

She added tidal conditions meant that water levels could rise quickly without the help of high winds.

Baleshare causeway was built in the 1960s using materials left over from another causeway project, with a culvert never added to the design, the campaign group understands.

A new causeway is estimated to cost around £9m although building into the existing route would cost between £5m and £6m. The option would pose “significant disruption to the community during construction,” a paper to Wednesday’s transport committee said

A report added: “Causeways and bridges form vital links to communities, however their general proximity to the sea and inland water courses can leave them liable to disruption. Tidal conditions, generally combined with a strong wind and surge can result in some causeways being overtopped by wave action or submerged.

"These conditions are generally predictable, and warnings can be issued to affected communities. The bridges and causeways affected can also vary depending on the prevailing wind direction.”

Council structural engineers said the causeway was “stable” with the structure to be inspected on an ongoing basis.

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