Somerset rivers – to dredge or not to dredge?


Guardian says – among these problems the Environment Agency points out are:

  1. Massive expense. Once you have started dredging, “it must be repeated after every extreme flood, as the river silts up again”.
  2. More dangerous rivers: “Removing river bank vegetation such as trees and shrubs decreases bank stability and increases erosion and siltation.”
  3. The destabilisation of bridges, weirs, culverts and river walls, whose foundations are undermined by deepening the channel: “If the river channels are dredged and structures are not realigned, ‘Pinch Points’ at structures would occur. This would increase the risk of flooding at the structure.” That means more expense and more danger.
  4. Destruction of the natural world: “Removing gravel from river beds by dredging leads to the loss of spawning grounds for fish, and can cause loss of some species. Removing river bank soils disturbs the habitat of river bank fauna such as otters and water voles.”

If that is so, are the calls for Smith’s head right?    I ask only for information.


24 responses to “Somerset rivers – to dredge or not to dredge?

  1. XX The destabilisation of bridges, weirs, culverts and river walls, whose foundations are undermined by deepening the channel: XX


    They are NOT “deepening the channel” they are putting it back to the state it was as these “bridges, weirs, culverts and river walls” were first built!

    Are the Dock gates and outer dock walls at Liverpool and Birkenhead collapsing because of dredging the Mersey?

    Did Albert and Salthouse docks fall apart, as soon as they dredged the basins?

  2. First and foremost never believe a word printed by the Guardian pertaining to environmental issues.

    Now taking their points.
    1. The massive expenditure is because of the remedial work necessary to get the rivers back to the condition they were in before the EA stopped river management.

    Complete bullshit. If the river banks are correctly maintained and you use the dredgings to raise and reinforce the banks this becomes a non issue for everyone except the greens.
    If the dredging is done correctly then the bed of any river is restored to the level it was at when the bridges etc. were built, so this is another non issue.
    This is the argument that is always used by the greens when they don’t have any other valid points to argue. Which is more important, people or water voles and newts?

    In fact the EA should be disbanded and the maintenance of rivers and other waterways returned to those that used to maintain them correctly.

    It is rather strange that the Dutch with their vast land area below sea level don’t get the devastating floods that the UK does since the EA took over river and waterway maintenance, especially since there were very few problems before the take over. I wonder why? Is it because the EA is infested with green environ-mentalists?

  3. Suspected something along those lines.

  4. FT and Ivan have beaten me to it. Bayard did a longer post on my blog and he’s the expert in these matters.

  5. So boys, what is the answer then? What should be happening?

  6. Mark, I have read what Bayard posted and reading the comments it appears that there are very few engineers saying anything. For a start everyone appears to miss the fact that the man made drainage channels need, 1) working one way valves (they used to have them but they have not been maintained for a very long time or 2) they should be pumped out into the rivers. Both of those require rivers that are silt free because of dredging. (I tried to add the above to your comments but don’t have a google a/c)

    As to the answer James, it is simple.
    1) Fire the top three levels of EA management.
    2) Employ engineers with experience of river and flood management – bring them in from Holland an short term contracts if necessary.
    3) Remove all the green advisors from government position and that includes the chief science advisor and all the greens in DECC.
    4) Repeal the Climate Change Act and all the green taxes that flow from that.

    I could go on but those would do for a start – not that any of it will come to pass because of the ‘jobs for the boys’ attitude that pervaded parliament.

  7. Perhaps you should read Booker today and before, it’s the EU stupid!!!
    Find him on EURef. as DTel is paywalled, click on story to enlargen.

  8. Pump excess water into a pipeline system to the coast. Load it into tankers and sell it overseas. Clean, fresh Somerset water. Crikey if they can bottle French stuff you can sell English stuff by the tanker-full, Shirley?

  9. Agree with those who are criticisnng the EA viewpoint. Booker today is following up on something Richard North pointed out earlier in the week, namely that the flooding is deliberate design of EU policy, which the EA has been parroting in its design for some time.

    It is also being alluded to that the policy might be part of a pincer movement approach as well. The river it is said has to be dredged because the materials from the top surface bond as opposed to simply flowing. However the EU have said that it is not possible to simply dredge and build up the defences with the dredged soil because of the risk of dumping toxic material on the land.

  10. Ivan has made all the relevant points, my own earlier article merely gives the same viewpoint from somebody who had hands on experience of the EA.
    The EU definitely have a hand in this, but as no one else seems to take any notice ie the Dutch it is a convenient “solution” for the EA not to spend any money and appease the greens.
    You also have to ask, again, the logic other than fulfilling the revolving door policy of jobs for the boys, what on earth is someone with absolutely no knowledge of anything other than being an MP, “heading up a housing charity does not qualify as a proper job” doing fronting up an organisation like the EA, he is not alone but that does not excuse the fact he is a parachutee, he should go and the other echelons of yes men with him.
    The fact that nature will in time reclaim some land (parts of the East coast are inevitably going to disappear and indeed already have) is of no relevance in the matter of maintaining rivers and water courses that for centuries have been maintained successfully by man and were made navigable by man, this was successfully done by the Rivers Authorities and has been abandoned largely by the EA, it is not fit for purpose.

  11. Just to add, the drainage boards of the fens and Broads don’t seem to have problems disposing of silt, and no floods ?

  12. Ivan and Wiggia provide more useful answers.

  13. As wiggia says the Norfolk Broads Authority has no problems with cleaning, dredging or flooding – but then they were never rolled into the EA for some reason and I assume it is the same with those overseeing the fens.

  14. Beat me to it Wiggia. I was struck many years ago when I sailed down the Yare to Yarmouth and thence to Breydon Water that in the lower reaches, the Yare sits 20ft higher than the plain that runs to the Breydon water. It is supported be huge embankments. I don’t know if this would work on the Levels; perhaps the Dutch might advise us. I certainly wouldn’t ask someone whose prime qualification is a PhD in English Lit.

  15. So what we’re saying, essentially, is that Smith & Co should be kicked in the upper lip with steel-tipped toecaps until they resign on masse and elt professionals back in to look after the levels, fens etc.?

  16. James you have it in one.

  17. Just a final piece , have just watched Countryfile on BBC, not a program I normally pay any attention to, as I always look upon it as Blue Peter for adults ?
    But this episode included a piece on should we do anything to save areas affected by “climate change” etc etc and basically was a dialogue between a presenter and a representative from Natural England.
    At no point was there any discussion on the flooding only on the erosion and areas being reclaimed by the sea.
    It was a benign , soft approach to letting nature take its course, with examples of natural defenses et al.
    That in itself is difficult long term to criticise, but it was explained citing rising sea levels ? climate change and the consequences and all else that effects the East coast, no mention whatever of the fact that the East of England is sinking , has been sinking for thousands of years and will continue to do so.
    An easy target, if you have an agenda, so who are Natural England, quel surprise, a fully funded association by, guess ? DEFRA and the EA, who of course as mentioned earlier the East coast whilst sinking is also home to the independent bodies controlling with some success the Fens and Broads.
    The EA has form for incompetents the previous CEO was the infamous Baroness Young who has failed miserably at almost every post given and famously said she would gladly like to see all pumping stations blown up, I would suggest most people affected by the EA incompetence would like to see her blown up.

  18. The blame game, most significant comment from the blameless Lord Smith is the one on funding cuts, claiming the govt has shortchanged them by 500,000, not that they intended to spend that money if they had it on any form of dredging or flood protection.
    And isn’t that the amount the agency has paid the EU in fines recently, as I revealed earlier !

  19. Sorry for this, but this is an issue that just keeps giving.
    Eric Pickles, the one minister with no fear of floods having his own built in Mae West replied when asked why some of the foreign aid budget could not be diverted to help the Somerset problem, “aid money spent in a sustainable way in other countries will help alleviate extreme weather in the UK”, to which I would like to reply, come on then clever dick, prove it.
    We really are surrounded and governed by idiots.

  20. [That post has now been converted to its author.

    At the time, I could only H/T Wiggia but now he is a registered author, it’s finally been done.]

  21. EU policy: deliberately allowing flooding of Somerset Levels & other parts of UK?

    U.N. Agenda 21: A plan of action that includes protect the environment, restoration ecology, and getting more people out of rural areas and into cities.

    “As noted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, such laws support a community’s rights to nurture its home rather than witness its destruction. In one example, in 2012, New Zealand recognized the rights of the Whanganui River and its tributaries…In order for a new economic system to be sustainable, it is essential that it truly sustain nature. Sustainability in this context involves the recognition of the
    limits of nature and the rights of nature.” (See U.N. doc A/68/325: ‘Harmony with Nature’, points 71 & 72).

    Post 2015 Development Agenda

  22. And it all boils down to money. One interesting snippet in this debate was that the EA said it would cost over £4m to dredge while the local board said they were quoted a few thousand. It appears that the EA deliberately inflates figures to support their argument that with the ‘cuts’ they just can’t afford to do it. But then they get completely destroyed when it comes out that they have approved a spend of £31m on a bird sanctuary!

  23. Not only that Rossa, they spent more on PR than they did on actual useful work.