The community on Barra will celebrate the official opening of a new harbour at a ceremony on the 18th of June. This new facility is owned and run by the community group Northbay Port Users Association.
The Northbay Cidhe Beag development has been brought forward by Northbay Port Users Association which has worked tirelessly to raise the £146,000 required to fund the project, from Big Lottery, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and HIE.
The new tidal harbour is an extension and improvement of an older facility and now has double the berthing area, greater depth, more shelter and a new slip development. While the fishing fraternity will benefit from the project it is also available to local leisure craft and visiting boats.
The official opening is timed to coincide with an island wide hand line fishing competition, with an armada of boats of all sizes leaving from the Cidhe early in the day. Following the great weigh in at 14:00 there will be a prize giving and refreshments in St Barr’s hall.
While the opening will be a light hearted community event, the Northbay Cidhe Beag development is aimed to meet a serious need. The project was conceived before the great storm of 2005, in which boats berthed at Ardveenish suffered extensive damage costing £300,000 in repairs plus months of lost fishing time while boats were repaired. With one vessel sinking three requiring weeks in boat yards and as a result the local fish factory was left with only one local boat to supply prawns for processing.
Following the storm Northbay Port Users Association redoubled its effort to improve port facilities for all users. The Cidhe Beag is the first fruit of the association’s efforts. NPUA has already turned its attention to the needs of the local trawling fleet which still has to use the Ardveenish pier, which is exposed to all but Nor-easterly, Northerly and Nor-westerly winds.
Northbay Port Users Association were granted funding to engage a consultant engineer to draw up a plan along with the members local knowledge for a new sheltered harbour at Ardveenish. The unsuitability of the present pier location coming to the fore every winter with crew standing by their vessels during periods of severe weather. With the completion of the inner harbour for the smaller boats the focus is now on bringing the new Ardveenish harbour to reality, to provide safe berthing for the present and future larger sized boat users.
Comhairle nan Eilean has been lobbied hard by the community in order to realise the facility at Ardveenish, as fears mount that this project may fall victim to Comhairle cuts.