Dredging of the Somerset Levels will begin next month as soon as it is safe and practical to do so, the Environment Agency (EA) announced yesterday. The Environment Agency is formally advertising the works in preparation for work to start.
Dredging will take place on eight kilometres of river channel where the Tone and Parrett meet at Burrowbridge. Work will start on a 200 metre long stretch of the river Parrett north of Coates Farm.
This is a key stretch of the river that has been specifically identified by local people for dredging and where significant amounts of silt have built up. Clearing this length provides the greatest flood reduction benefits through dredging for local villages, farmers and transport routes.
Work will be ready to start by the end of March provided water levels drop and the banks and adjacent land is dry enough for the specialist contractors’ excavators to work safely.
Floods Minister Dan Rogerson said: “Today marks a crucial step forwards in ensuring local communities around the Somerset Levels are better protected from the devastating impact of floods.
“We know those affected are tired and fed-up but I can assure them we are working around the clock to clear the flood water so they can get on with their lives.
“We are also looking to the long term, and I will be chairing the next meeting of the local senior leadership group soon. We are working to agree a plan which will make communities on the levels and moors safer and protect the priceless local environment.”
Paul Leinster, Chief Executive at the Environment Agency, said: “We plan to start dredging by the end of March, as long as the contractors deem it is safe to do so. We are committed to dredging as part of a broader package of work to protect people, property and land in Somerset.”
Dredging will complement a range of actions to be set out in the Action Plan commissioned by Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, when he visited the Somerset Moors and Levels on 27th January this year. The plan is due to be presented in early March. The Environment Agency will continue to work closely with Somerset County Council and other partners to better protect the area from flooding.
Land and water management on the Somerset moors and levels is generally acknowledged to be a complex issue and effective flood management requires more than a single measure such as dredging.
Press Release, February 21, 2014