UK: government urged to fund dredging to prevent "catastrophic floods"News // January 27, 2014
Western Morning News reports that the government has been urged to urgently fund dredging of rivers on the Somerset Levels to avoid future “catastrophic” floods.
MPs this week warned a huge area of Somerset was “drowning” and blamed the Environment Agency for not dredging rivers, particularly the Parrett and the Tone, which are blocked by silt build-ups. But the heavily-criticised quango is reluctant to dredge against warnings from conservation groups it will destroy wildlife habitats.
Now Anthony Gibson, chairman of the Somerset Water Management Partnership, which represents a broad range of interests on the Levels and Moors, has written to Floods Minister Dan Rogerson to request funds to help pay for river dredging, which could cost up £4 million.
Somerset County Council has stumped up £500,000, bringing the collection up to around £1.5 million. Mr Gibson said it was “unrealistic” to expect sufficient funds to be raised quickly enough to dredge this year “as it must do, if communities on the Levels are to be spared the threat of another catastrophic flood next winter”.
He wrote: “By increasing the capacity of the rivers, its practical effect will be to make uncontrolled flooding less likely, its duration shorter and its impacts less severe.
“Crucially, it is the one thing that simply must be done to restore the trust of the Levels’ community that the Government and its agencies really do understand and care about the dreadful situation they have faced for these past two winters.
“With dredging, I am sure we can achieve the level of positive local engagement which will be needed to move forward across the whole water management agenda, including the approaches which have been proposed by the RSPB and the Somerset Wildlife Trust; without it, making progress will be vastly more difficult.”