Posted on November 27, 2023
Nearly £130,000 of additional funding has been secured to carry out additional dredging on the Somerset Levels as winter approaches. The Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) was created in 2015 in response to the catastrophic floods of 2012 and 2013/14, receiving its funding through Somerset Council‘s council tax precepts.
The SRA funds additional flood prevention projects on top of the work carried out by the Environment Agency (EA) and Somerset’s internal drainage boards – including dredging key sections of the River Parrett and River Tone to ensure water can be carried from the Somerset Levels into the Bristol Channel. The SRA board has now voted to provide an additional £129,760 to fund further dredging in the Burrowbridge area, which will provide additional protection to rural homes and businesses.
Since 2016, the Somerset Drainage Board Consortium (SDBC) has carried out water injection dredging on the River Parrett between Burrowbridge and the Northmoor pumping station, a few miles outside Bridgwater. The dredging, which is usually carried out in December and January, involves injecting water directly into the river bed or bank, suspending the silt within the water and carrying it downstream.
This method has proved to be more effective and deliver better value for money than more conventional methods – such as digging large sections of the river bed out with diggers or barges. The SRA had already set aside £281,411 for this section of dredging in its annual budget.
With the additional £129,760 allocated by the SRA board, which last met in Yeovil on November 3, this brings the total committed to dredging the Parrett to £411,171. Alexandra Crawford stated in her written report: “There is widespread support for this dredging to continue.
“This project is not immune to the pressures of inflation rising at a greater rate than anticipated, and last year’s dredging cycle went a little over budget. This increase was accommodated by allocating some of the current year’s budget to top up the shortfall, which reduced the budget available for the winter 2023-24 dredge.”
While water injection dredging has been effect at removing silt from the lower part of the river, it is less effective at dealing with silt building up on the higher banks of the river. To address this problem, some of the additional funding agreed will go towards a trial use of plant machinery, which would remove material from the banks while the water injection dredging was undertaken by a barge.
Around 200 metres of the banks between Burrowbridge and Northmoor would be treated using this method in early-2024, with a view to further sections being explored during the next round of dredging.