UK’s biggest ever coastal realignment scheme at Steart, a joint project between WWT and Environment Agency, has been completed.
The construction of Steart Marshes means the Environment Agency can continue its maintenance of flood risk schemes elsewhere in the Severn Estuary that protect 100,000 homes and businesses.
Rising sea levels are predicted to result in loss of inter-tidal habitat in the Severn Estuary. Steart Marshes will replace about half of this loss and reduce the flood risk for local communities. Just before 7am today, high tides entered 250 hectares of low-lying land for the first time in centuries, through a newly excavated 200 meter gap in the Parrett Estuary coastal embankments.
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) and Environment Agency’s Steart Marshes scheme uses the shallow gradient and coarse vegetation of the saltmarsh to absorb wave energy naturally. This will help to protect local villages from storm surges, and protect the newly constructed flood banks from erosion so that they last longer.
WWT Chief Executive Martin Spray said:
“WWT Steart Marshes proves you can protect homes and businesses by using wetland technology that works with nature, not against it. Climate change is here now. Last winter was the wettest on record and we suffered the worst storms for 20 years. I want to give full credit to the villagers of the Steart Peninsula for getting behind this idea, helping to shape it and helping to save the peninsula from being lost to rising sea levels.”
Richard Cox, for the Environment Agency, said:
“Over 200km of coastal banks around the Severn Estuary reduce flood risk to more than 100,000 homes and businesses, a benefit valued at £5 billion. There is an ongoing need to maintain these structures. The Steart project will directly protect homes, businesses and the surrounding infrastructure. The National Grid power lines into Hinkley Point power station are a key element of the national infrastructure protected by the scheme.”
Half a million cubic meters of soil were dug and moved to create new and improved flood banks. The area is being managed as farmland and a nature reserve and in time the creek system should become a nursery for commercial fish stocks such as sea bass.
Steart Marshes has been carefully landscaped over the last two years and paths and bridleways have been created and improved to help more people enjoy the landscape.
As well as protecting the country from coastal flooding, and filtering pollution that would otherwise flow into the sea, saltmarshes are home to some of Britain’s most iconic wildlife – the Severn Estuary saltmarshes alone support more than 70,000 water birds.
Press Release, September 8, 2014