Planners reject proposal for six new marinas, recommend building one, in Nahariya

Opponents warned that new marinas would limit access to already crowded beaches, cause environmental damage, and only benefit the few

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Boats docked at the Ashkelon marina on the southern Mediterranean coast, on August 18, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Boats docked at the Ashkelon marina on the southern Mediterranean coast, on August 18, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Planners decided on Tuesday to reject a proposal to build six new marinas along Israel’s Mediterranean coast and instead recommend to the National Planning and Building Council that just one be created — in Nahariya in the north.

The subcommittee on planning principles, which heard more than five hours of presentations for and against the proposal, will also recommend to the National Planning and Building Council that eight existing mooring sites be expanded and made more efficient.

These stretch from Acre in the north to Ashkelon in the south.

Two out of ten subcommittee members voted against the decision — those representing the Transportation Ministry and the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality. They wanted at least four new marinas.

The decision came after widespread opposition to the initial plan from the Environment Ministry and green groups.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) said after the decision that it would be a “major public achievement” if the National Planning and Building Council accepted the subcommittee’s recommendation. It added that it would seek to have the Nahariya plan scotched as well.

“Future mooring needs can be met and even doubled just by expanding the existing marinas and making them more efficient,” the organization said in a statement.

Tel Aviv’s marina, on March 18, 2018. (Flash90)

The Environmental Protection Ministry, Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and green organizations opposed the six marina plan, advanced by the Israel Ports Authority in the Transportation Ministry on the basis of figures indicating that mooring places will run out within three years.

“Israel’s maritime space and beaches are a limited resource used by the general public,” the Environment Ministry said in a statement released Monday ahead of the meeting.

“We must not expropriate it for the needs of a minority of yacht owners, and promote programs that gnaw away at valuable coastal areas in favor of building marinas. The environmental, social, and economic cost is too high,” it said.

The Environmental Protection Ministry calculated that an additional 1,800 mooring places could be provided by upgrading, streamlining, and expanding existing marinas.

A study of 17 marinas around the world carried out for the ministry found that contrary to the aspirations of many Israeli mayors, marinas did not bring prestige or economic benefits, but rather cost the public tens of millions of dollars in indirect expenses that the planning authorities had not taken into account.

A section of collapsing coastal cliff in Ashkelon, southern Israel. (The Mediterranean Coastal Cliffs Preservation Government Company)

The study found that marinas disrupt the natural flow of sand, causing beaches to become thinner and robbing cliffs of the sand that helps to keep them standing. Additional sand usually has to be brought in. Furthermore, marinas usually require the installation and maintenance of breakwaters.

Countering claims that more marinas would benefit tourism, the study further found that in 2015 — the most recent year for which data exists — yacht tourists to Israel accounted for just 3.5 percent of all tourists coming in by sea, with most of them middle-aged couples visiting between September and November from Germany and the United Kingdom.

A presentation prepared for Tuesday’s meeting by the SPNI showed that Israel’s beaches are already the 14th most crowded of all coastal countries that have at least a million citizens, with an average of 44,000 people squeezing into each square kilometer of sand.

A young couple relaxes on a crowded beach in Herzliya, on August 5, 2006. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Population growth is likely to take the number of beach visits during the bathing season from an estimated 209 million this year to 318 million by 2040, the organization calculated.

The SPNI warned that marinas pollute the water with harmful fuels, oils, and solvents, prevent the natural replacement of water that comes with the tides reaching the beach, hinder the movement of sand, threaten the stability of cliffs, and harm sea creatures and marine ecological systems.

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