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‘Salvemos Rinconcillo’: El Rinconcillo Residents Unite to Save Beach & Palmones Marsh

Rosario Pérez | Photos: ©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

The ‘Salvemos Rinconcillo’ (‘Lets Save Rinconcillo’) group are calling for an underwater support structure to be installed in the bay to “stabilise the coastline, which has been altered over the years due to the expansion works carried out at the Port of Algeciras”.

El Rinconcillo Algeciras 2020 | ©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

“Citizens of Algeciras have already lost two beaches: El Chorruelo and Los Ladrillos… we can’t afford to lose another one”, warns journalist and writer José Manuel Serrano, who has recently become the spokesman for ‘Salvemos Rinconcillo’. The group is made up of concerned locals, ecologists and people who love this beach in Algeciras.

The group was recently set up to create awareness and to demand the implementation of effective solutions from the authorities and put an end to the deterioration of the beach. The beach is located between the bridge which connects to the northern end of the port of Algeciras and the mouth of the Palmones river, which acts as a natural boundary line with its neighbouring municipality, Los Barrios.

“This is a threat which the El Rinconcillo beach has been facing for a long time, but the damage is now so evident that we have decided to get together and fight for our beach and for the Palmones marshland, which is also in danger of destruction… The recent storms have proven just how problematic this situation is, and we can’t wait any longer”, Serrano explained. He told us that “the bunker, which once was about 80 metres from the shore when I was younger, is now in the sea most of the time, cutting off the beach.”

El Rinconcillo Bunker Algeciras 2019 storm
Waves crash against El Rinconcillo Bunker Algeciras in 2019 | ©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

According to a document published by ‘Salvemos Rinconcillo’, the beach is continuously battling the changes in coastal dynamics dating back 20 years, specifically due to the construction of the Juan Carlos I container port. This great feat of engineering (which occupies 860,000 square metres of land, with a berth length for ships of 1,800 metres and a draft of 14-16 metres) was established in June 2000 by the then-King of Spain. It entailed “an expansion of the northern part of the Port of Algeciras, which caused it to jut out into the Bay and no corrective environmental measures have since been taken.”

A Sand Dune Protecting the Area is also in Danger

©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

“For a while now, everyone has been able to see that the so-called ‘Playa de la Concha’, the part of the beach which is next to the bridge, is amassing more and more sand and is becoming wider, meanwhile, at the central area towards the mouth of the river, the beach is becoming narrower, to the point that the tide is dismantling a sand dune that serves to protect the Palmones marshland … which, don’t forget, is a protected natural site, and a key habitat for numerous bird species, which the Junta de Andalucía has a legal obligation to conserve”, warned Serrano.

©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

For the Salvemos Rinconcillo group, the “soft solution” of bringing in sand from other locations which had been implemented in recent summers, is not only unhelpful, but is also adding to the continual alteration of the characteristics of this location, because “all the sand ends up in the same place; at the southern end of the beach, which already looks like Los Lances, while the other end of El Rinconcillo continues to deteriorate, and now there is a real risk of the sea breaking into the marsh at any time now”.

A Possible Solution from a 2018 Technical Report

A sign reads “where is our beach?” at El Rinconcillo Algeciras 2020 | ©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

The group believe that they have the solution, which they say can be found in a technical report published in September 2018 by a prestigious road, channels and ports engineer by the name of Pepe Cano, who is known for overseeing the construction of the Sotogrande Marina and is now working on the Gibralmedina dam.

According to this report, if the Juan Carlos I terminal had not been constructed, “the water would be able to continue entering into the Bay in the same way it previously had, pushing sand back and forth without any obstructions through a natural movement of currents and tides that stabilised the beach”. According to the report, the port and the construction of the extended container terminal gave rise to a phenomenon known as “later diffraction”, i.e. the tide hits an obstacle and a reflex effect is caused which generates a curve, which, “no matter how much sand is pumped into the beach, goes all the way down to the southern end, under the bridge.”

But El Rinconcillo is not yet a lost cause. The group maintains that they have the solution, and it is contained within Pepe Cano’s report. “That is why we’re fighting for this, because all is not yet lost … and the solution is to submerge concrete or stone dikes in the bay (similar to those that can be found in Puente Mayorga and at the eastern part of Gibraltar) which would have no visual impact and would cancel out the lateral diffraction, and from then on more sand can be added, and after a couple of days, the beach would stabilise.”

©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

Salvemos Rinconcillo say that this investment, which is estimated to cost between five and six million Euros, is not expensive when taking into consideration the fact that it is a definitive solution which will bring major benefits: saving the beach and the Palmones marshland’s ecosystem. “Also, considering that the Port caused the problem, this is a small price to pay, and surely it is less money that what would be spent on pouring in sand every year for nothing”, says Serrano.

Meeting with the City Council and the APBA with an Eye on 2023

©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

The group has been firm that they will not give up. On September 18th, a meeting took place between the City Council and the Port Authority of the Bay of Algeciras (APBA) in which, Serrano told us, “for the first time, the port was held accountable for what is happening”. He tells us that three commitments were made: a hydrological (water) study in 2020, to be carried out by the University of Cantabria; the creation of a roundtable to monitor the situation; and the implementation of “all necessary actions so that the problem is solved by, at latest, 2023.”

Salvemos El Rinconcillo Algeciras Port Beach
©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

Salvemos Rinconcillo believe that these commitments will be fulfilled, and that “they will not be delayed any further, as has already happened with the train and so many other projects in this region”.

In any event, the group say that they are not willing to allow El Rinconcillo to endure “the same neglect” that befell the other two (out of four) Algeciras beaches: Los Ladrillos, which was located in what is now the Paseo de la Cornisa, opposite the Corte Inglés, and El Chorruelo, whose shore once stood at the foot of the Hotel Cristina. “In this area, it seems that we’ve made a habit of allowing something to degrade, until this natural space can no longer be fixed due to the degradation … In the case of El Rinconcillo, we are still in time to avoid a repetition”, says the spokesperson.

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