Environment Agency denies MP’s claim that increased dredging would lessen impact of Welney flooding
16:23 03 February 2014
The Environment Agency has denied claims by MP Steve Barclay that more dredging of the Old Bedford River would lessen the impact of flooding at Welney.
Mr Barclay, the MP for NE Cambs, called for increased dredging “which will reduce pressure on the Ouse Washes and in turn the number of days the A1101 through Welney is closed”.
But a spokesman for the agency says dredging would be “very expensive, both financially and environmentally” and would not prevent flooding of the A1101.
The spokesman said: “The A1101 Welney Causeway crosses the Ouse Washes which is a flood storage reservoir designed to store enormous amounts of water - 90,000,000m3 - the equivalent to 36,000 Olympic size swimming pools.
“The reservoir stores water that has come down from the upper reaches of the River Great Ouse and is designed to ‘hold’ the flood water behind raised embankments and thus prevent thousands of hectares of prime agricultural land in the Fens from being flooded.”
The spokesman said: “The Old Bedford River flows through and is part of the Ouse Washes flood storage reservoir. It is an artificial river contained by raised embankments.
“Dredging it would provide some benefit to land drainage in the Fens but it would be very expensive, both financially and environmentally and it would not prevent the flooding we’ve seen in recent weeks which has cut off the A1101”.
Mr Barclay said: “Whilst the Environment Agency has disputed the extent to which more extensive dredging could have avoided the widespread flooding in the West Country it is clear from the intervention of the Prime Minister yesterday that dredging was a factor and this is reflected in the future work programme of the Environment Agency in that area.
“The Environment Agency has said that in Somerset they are increasing their dredging activity once water levels have receded and we should not wait for flooding before changing our own programme locally.
“In the Fens we are lucky to have genuine experts in our Internal Drainage Boards and I am keen to ensure their voice is heard and where they have identified a need for dredging the authorities act on it”.