Environment Agency Abandons Dredging Benefits Assessment

Bankside Dredging

Bankside Dredging

Since attending a councillors’ flood briefing in February, I have asked repeatedly that the Environment Agency supply an assessment of the benefits that the current programme of dredging would have had on the 2013/14 flood event. It has been delayed many times until my most recent request a couple of weeks ago, which ended with an admission that they were now unlikely to complete it. The reason that I requested a copy of the assessment is twofold: – Firstly, I wanted to see that value for money was being achieved and secondly I wanted to see how much difference to flood extent and duration would accrue so that we could focus on what additional measures might be required. The Environment Agency does point to an assessment undertaken after the 2012/13 flood event as a basis for evaluation and I have been supplied with a copy. I will be meeting the Agency in two weeks’ time to walk through the implications of that assessment. Here is the Agency’s response to me regarding the abandonment of the current assessment: –

“We are aware that there is increasing interest in the dredging currently being carried out and the impact it would have had on the extent of the 2013/14 event, had it been completed.

The modelling of the 2012/13 flood event did show that there was a positive reduction in water levels over many of the moors in the lower reaches of the Parrett and Tone. Following an appraisal of ideas, it was found that dredging was the main way to achieve a reduction in flood risk to the moors and significant effort was made to secure the funding required to carry it out. Unfortunately sufficient funding was not forth coming before we were beset by the flooding of 2013/14.

On the basis that the modelling work we did following the 2012/13 event showed a reduction in flood risk as a result of the dredging, it is reasonable to suggest that there would also have been a reduction in flooding from the 2013/14 event. Please find attached a technical note on the evaluation of the 2012/13 modelling and dredging- the effects of dredging for the 13/14 are likely to be similar so this report provides a good indicator. We used this information as evidence to make sure we targeted our current dredging to the section of the river which provided the most benefits. You may already have seen this.

As I have previously stated, we had started a modelling investigation to quantify the risk reduction from the 13/14 event, but our priorities were changed with the creation of the 20 year plan and the subsequent provision of funding from central government to deliver the dredging and other urgent actions identified, all to be completed by this autumn. This required us to re-focus our efforts on project delivery and the modelling of the 13/14 event was postponed.

Regarding evidence of the impact/benefit of dredging- The modelling from the 12/13 flood even gave us enough confidence to proceed with the dredging provided sufficient funding was found. We had secured contributions from SCC, The Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee and Defra (EA) but these were insufficient to proceed. We were actively securing other sources of funding when the flooding occurred and money was provided by Government and we progressed as a matter of priority.

At this time, it is unlikely that we will complete a full assessment of modelled impacts of the 8km dredge as the project is now 75% complete. It would be more beneficial for us to continue progressing the urgent bank repairs ahead of this coming winter and other work streams within the 20 year plan.”

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2 Responses to Environment Agency Abandons Dredging Benefits Assessment

  1. Gav sadler says:

    Moving forward dredging has to be value for money – from a Moorland resident’s point of view I would be very interested to see if had the river’s been dredged, whether my house would have still flooded. Nearly 8 months on we’re still not home! We had similar rainfall in the 1990s but we didn’t flood and guess what? The river’s were still being dredged then!

  2. Rob says:

    This is astonishing – millions of pounds of public money being spent on dredging (against the advice of hydrologists, it has to be said), and no evaluation of the impact? This sounds like the badger cull all over again, where the government does not want scientific fact to get in the way of dogma-based policy, whatever the cost.

    The Parrett catchment has just had the wettest winter since records began, over 250 years ago. The hydrologists say dredging would have made diddly-squat difference to the floods that occurred. Why no scientific evaluation of the millions of pounds of public expenditure? What are they trying to hide?

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