Posted on November 28, 2022
The biggest-ever dredging of Gloucester Docks will allow tall ships to freely navigate and moor. The £750,000 project has started and will last four months and remove 15,000 cubic metres of silt.
The amount of gunk would be enough to fill six Olympic-sized swimming pools and would be removed by a powerful ‘suction dredger’. The excess silt entered the Docks from the River Severn during the exceptionally dry summer.
The Canal & River Trust said this was linked to its work to ensure the vital daily water supply for residents and business in Bristol. It will be a huge boom of tall ships and other ships to access the Docks.
As Rob Eaton, regional operations manager for the Canal & River Trust, explains: “Water from the River Severn supplies up to half of the daily water supply for Bristol. It is pumped from the river into the docks at Gloucester, and then along the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal where Bristol Water treat it before supplying it to homes and businesses.
“This summer Bristol Water took around 175 million litres of water per day from the canal and, exacerbated by the drought, it has meant that the water coming into Gloucester’s docks from the River Severn has been far siltier than usual.
“This led to a rapid build-up of silt which has reduced depth of water in the docks from our target of around 3.5 metres to one metre or less in some areas. That’s enough for a narrowboat but little else and is currently preventing deeper drafted boats such as passenger craft, and the tall ships who visit in May and June, from using part of the docks.
“I am delighted to get the winter programme of dredging underway so that we can ensure the docks, which are such a key feature of the city, continue to be used by boats as they have been for hundreds of years.”
Silt in Gloucester Docks is made up of a mixture of sand and sediment carried and deposited by the river. Over the next few months it will be ‘sucked up’ by the dredger, increasing water levels in the docks once more.
Normally the Trust can monitor the level of silt in the river water and only allow water into the docks when levels are low. However, this year, intensified by the drought and the need to meet the water demands at Bristol, more water has been required than usual regardless of silt levels.
The dredging programme in winter avoids impacting coarse fish such as roach, perch and pike who spawn in the spring and summer months. Similarly, works to the River Severn are completed in winter to avoid impacting migratory fish such as sea lamprey, twaite shad, allis shad, salmon, sea trout and eels.
Rob added: “The local team has worked extraordinarily hard this summer to keep our navigations open under very trying conditions, so we’re relieved that its finally started to rain and to see that the dredger has arrived in Gloucester and is ready to start work.”