Close call for marina homes

Marina da Gama resident Kim Abrahams pointing to water just below a doorway of a nearby property.

Rising water levels in Marina da Gama during last week’s heavy rains came unnecessarily close to swamping homes there because the City should have acted sooner to open the mouth of Zandvlei with a bulldozer, say residents

Lionel Yuda placed sandbags at his front door when he saw water levels rising in the marina’s canals. Some water did get in, but it caused little damage, he says.

The high-water mark below which properties cannot be built at the marina was passed, he adds.

“This storm has caused the highest water level since 2013 when houses were flooded and boats washed away. If the mouth had been opened earlier, it would have been better.”

Calls were already being made, by 7.30am on Monday June 13, on a Marina da Gama WhatsApp group for the mouth to be opened.

At 8am, resident Eve Fritz, who has experienced flooding in the past warned everyone to secure their boats to jetties.

At 8.15am, water had reached houses and threatened flooding in Admiral’s Walk and Battle Ridge, where jetties were under water.

At 9.24am a message said the “dozer” was on standby if needed.

Resident Barry Hobbs believes the City was negligent in its response to the rising water level.

He said Zandvlei Nature Reserve manager Kyran Wright had noted on the WhatsApp group that a bulldozer operator was on standby to open the mouth of the vlei, but Mr Wright had delayed because he had been concerned about the spring tide due at 3pm.

Mr Hobbs feels Mr Wright was being overly cautious about the spring tide.

The mouth of the vlei was opened by the bulldozer at 11.50am, according to the WhatsApp group.

Mr Wright did not respond by deadline to the Echo’s requests for comment.

Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Eddie Andrews said the City had no record of houses being flooded in Marina da Gama.

“Water levels exceeded suitable levels, but the benefits of the flush are considerable and ultimately improve ecological conditions in the vlei.”

The mouth of the vlei had been opened the previous month for winter, but sand had partially closed it, contributing to the raised water levels, he said.

“The strong flush which followed the mouth opening seems to have removed much sand from the mouth channel and upstream towards Royal Road pedestrian bridge,” said Mr Andrews.

Concerns have also been raised about invasive vegetation and pollutants being washed down into the vlei during the rains.

Stan Gallon, who has been clearing invasive aquatic vegetation from the Keyser River for many years, said invasive water lettuce choking the river near his home had been flushed downstream into the vlei by the rains.

Mr Andrews said: “Thankfully, there is no risk of this vegetation spreading as it cannot survive the brackish water of Zandvlei, as it is too salty. The biomass, however, does add to the nutrient load, so it is important that it is removed before it decomposes. Reserve staff are continuing to clear this vegetation along the bird sanctuary section shoreline of the reserve and other hotspots.”

Meanwhile chairman of Zandvlei Trust, David Bristow, said litter nets near the mouth of the Sand River would have broken under the weight of rubbish flushed down the river during the rains had they not been cleaned by his team.

“The Zandvlei Trust manages five litter nets near the Sand River mouth where it enters the vlei. On Tuesday June 14, I called my litter cleaners from Vrygrond to get into the water, up to their shoulders in the freezing weather, and work from 8.30am until 4pm clearing mounds of mess. Had we not intervened, those litter nets would have broken.”

Two days later, Dr Bristow noted a foul-smelling oily chemical scum floating on the surface down the canal and into the vlei.

“It looked and smelled like a paint-related cocktail. People dispose of garbage bags, old furniture and leftover paint into the canal that acts as a sewer and garbage disposal unit. You would think by now the City departments responsible for the rivers/canals would have found a way to stop this litter avalanche into the vlei. It’s the kind of thing a farmer could fix on a Saturday morning,” said Dr Bristow.

Mr Andrew said catchment flushes caused by winter storms often brought much litter down the rivers into the vlei.

“There are litter traps, which are designed to trap some of this debris. However, they are overwhelmed in flood conditions. Despite this, it seems as though less litter than usual entered the vlei during this recent storm event, which is likely due to the winter-readiness clearing by Expanded Public Work Programme teams upstream of the vlei (this is not to say that no litter entered, it certainly did).

“It is difficult to determine exactly how much litter enters the system at any one time. Some litter accumulated towards the mouth. However, the Zandvlei Nature Reserve team was able to clear most of this before it entered the sea.”

A bulldozer was on standby to open the vlei mouth during heavy rains last week.
Zandvlei mouth open to False Bay.