Brightlingsea Dredging Scheme Moves Ahead

Image source: Brightlingsea Harbor

With the arrival of autumn and the departure of the summer breeding bird populations, Brightlingsea Harbor Commission, its principle designers Exo Environmental Ltd, principle contractor Royal Smals and contractor Miles Water Engineering have started Year 2 of their ambitious Harbor Dredging and Salt Marsh Restoration program.

Under the Interreg 2 Seas European initiative “Using Sediment As a Resource (USAR)”, this four year project aims to dredge approximately 53,000m³ of accumulated sediments from within Brightlingsea Creek in order to maintain the safe and efficient operation of the harbor.

In addition, the majority of the arising material is to be beneficially used to restore local intertidal mudflat and saltmarsh habitats that have been subject to continued erosion over recent decades.

During Year 1, 16,000m³ was successfully removed from within the harbor’s main approach and North Channel, resulting in a level bed profile to aid navigation and the partial restoration of the iconic Cindery West Island.

This year, the dredging works aim to remove 12,000m³ from within the South Channel to a target depth of -0.75m (relative to chart datum), in order to increase access to the South Channel pontoons and moorings.

Following this in the second phase between January and March 2018, an additional 8,000m³ will be removed from key areas in the North Channel around the town jetty and fuel berth.

As part of the ‘Working with Nature’ philosophy of the project, the arising material from these dredge areas is to be beneficially used to complete the restoration of Cindery West that began in Year 1. In addition, some of the sediments will be hydraulically pumped into the St Osyth borrow pits.

These 23 pits, measuring approximately 30x30m and 1m in depth, were excavated by the Environment Agency in the 1960’s to restore the coastal flood defense following the 1953 flood and now present an ideal opportunity to support the required dredging operations.

Not only will the pits store much of the South Channel sediments, the refilling of the pits will also protect the foundations of the flood wall and restore approximately 2.1ha of saltmarsh habitat.

As a result of the restoration, the ecosystem of the saltmarsh will be enhanced, it will facilitate the natural flood management of the creek and, following colonization by the local vegetation, will support the rich local biodiversity and provide benefits associated with a healthy environment.