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SRA Progress Update January 2016

January 2016 Progress Update

Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) exists to provide higher standards of flood protection than ordinary national funding allows for. This edition of The Stream details some of the work the SRA has recently been involved with and some important schemes coming up in 2016.

Sowy / King’s Sedgemoor Drain proposal offers Somerset greatest benefits of any scheme in 20-Year Flood Action Plan 

Somerset Rivers Authority is proposing a multi-million pound scheme to protect the Somerset Levels and Moors from flooding. Following on from the major work (pictured below) at Beer Wall on the A372, further improvements are being discussed for the River Sowy and King’s Sedgemoor Drain, from Monk’s Leaze Clyse near Langport down to Dunball sluice north of Bridgwater.

A public drop-in session about this scheme is being held at Othery Village Hall on Wednesday, 3 February, 2.30pm-7.30pm.

Aerial photo Beer Wall A372 engineering works Somerset
Photo by Steve Rogers, Skanska Project Manager


River Sowy Beer Wall aerial photo New Years Eve 2015
Beer Wall on New Year's Eve 2015, with the River Sowy flowing under the A372 and traffic flowing along the road. Picture courtesy of Bren Hodkinson, Environment Agency project manager.

The River Sowy / King's Sedgemoor Drain: how and why they could be improved 

The River Sowy is a man- made river conceived after the floods of 1960 as a relief channel to the River Parrett.

River Sowy Kings Sedgemoor Drain Somerset map and diagram

The Sowy was dug in 1969 but - to save money - only to 57% of the water-carrying capacity originally planned.

The aim now is to widen the Sowy by 2 to 4 metres, desilt King’s Sedgemoor Drain and raise banks (where need be) so the Sowy and KSD can take more water.

No other proposal in Somerset’s 20-Year Flood Action Plan will bring such big benefits in flood risk reduction to a wide geographical area.

Work could start in Autumn 2016, if the SRA’s Board decides on February 10 to put the scheme out to tender.

Monks Leaze Clyse graph showing water levels falling when sluice fully opened February 2014

The graph shows the dramatic 80cm drop in flood water levels achieved in two days in February 2014 by fully opening the sluice at Monk’s Leaze Clyse at the head of the Sowy (pictured below, branching off from the Parrett).

Aerial photo head River Sowy alongside River Parrett

The Environment Agency is drawing up the next steps for the SRA. One key aim is to balance the interests of farmers and landowners with those of environmentalists and archaeologists. 

The scheme is also being designed to work in combination with other projects. This January, for example, contractors begin removing the notoriously obstructive “lump of concrete” from under Dunball old bridge. This job is being supervised by Somerset County Council and SRA-funded using Growth Deal money from Heart of the SW Local Enterprise Partnership.

Miles and miles of dredging across Somerset

Maintenance dredging of the River Parrett began at the start of December, part of a long series of desilting activities across Somerset.

Maintenance dredging River Parrett near Westonzoyland Pumping Station December 2015

The photo above shows work underway up- stream of Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum, whose distinctive tower you can see in the background. (Photo: Phil Brewin).

The purpose of this dredge is to maintain 2.2km of the 8km pioneer dredge of the Parrett and Tone done in 2014. The job is being specified and supervised for the SRA by the Parrett Internal Drainage Board and carried out by contractors WM Longreach. After a break for Christmas and the New Year, work continues throughout January, with one stretch near Westonzoyland being excavated by machines based on platforms floating on the river.

By March, new dredging is due to begin of 750m of the Parrett downstream of Northmoor Pumping Station. This scheme is being managed for the SRA by the Environment Agency (EA) and designed and delivered by Galliford Try, Black & Veatch and Land & Water. This job will mostly be done from floating platforms, although 150m will have to be dredged from the riverside. This means that Huntworth Lane will be closed to through traffic for about four weeks - but it will not be shut all day, every day. It should be open outside of weekday working hours (to try to allow, for example, for school runs in the morning and for people coming home from work) and at weekends. Pedestrians will be let through whenever possible. Full details are still being worked out and will be published on the SRA’s website and the EA’s social media platforms.

Dredging Hixham Rhyne on Stokemoor near Cheddar

Other recent dredging work has included 4km of Hixham Rhyne near Cheddar (pictured above), localised sections of the Mark Yeo near Tarnock and of the Yeo around Ilchester and the A303.

The photo below shows the EA using hired excavators to dredge the full 3km of the Cripps River, for the SRA. The Cripps is used by the EA as a channel for moving potentially huge amounts of water from the River Brue down to the Huntspill or from the Huntspill up to the Brue. This helps to prevent flooding in the Brue Valley and to maintain water levels suitable for farming and environmental benefits. Several valuable wildlife sites are nearby.

Environment Agency dredging Cripps River for Somerset Rivers Authority

The Board of the SRA has agreed to investigate more cost-effective dredging techniques and sites before deciding on a dredging programme going beyond the financial year of April 2015 – March 2016.

Slowing the flow

Sixty-six leaky, woody dams are being proposed to help slow the flow of water from catchment areas into rivers. Pictured below is a new dam built near Chillington in South Somerset. Grants are available for building more: contact FWAG SW on 01823 660684 (www.fwag-sw.org.uk)

FWAG woody leaky dam Chillington South Somerset

FWAG Somerset map showing Catchment Partnership Action Fund areas
Areas eligible for Catchment Partnership Action Fund grants via FWAG

Other land management work happening as part of the Hills to Levels project includes mapping out the county’s soils, according to their water storage capacities, tree planting and investigating the use of filter socks. Improving land management is a key aspect of Somerset’s Flood Action Plan, co-ordinated by the SRA.

Controlling the flow

Worn-out pipes and flow control valves are to be replaced at Wirral Park balance pond and pumping station, built in the late 1980s to protect homes and businesses in Glastonbury against flooding. Work starts in mid-January on this Mendip District Council scheme, funded by the SRA. The contractors are Multipump Distribution.

Schemes for West Somerset

Local flood risk management measures starting in January include: Minehead (A39 Hopcott Road drainage improvements & Periton Lane grill), Old Cleeve to Blue Anchor Road (drainage improvements), Washford area (CCTV survey & Huish Lane spillway into watercourse), Combe Florey (culvert upgrade / new trash screen), Holford (Perry Farm lane drainage improvements & Dytch Road carriageway raising), Sampford Brett (Capton Road drainage improvements), Bicknoller (Dashwood Lane drainage improvements).

New flood closure gates

Gates have been installed at eight locations across the Somerset Levels and Moors to close roads and so stop vehicles driving through flood water and potentially getting stranded.

The Somerset County Council-led scheme was carried out as part of Somerset’s 20-Year Flood Action Plan, co-ordinated by the SRA.

There are eight sites on four roads: A361, East Lyng; A361, Burrowbridge; Cutts Road, East Lyng; Cutts Road, Athelney; New Road, West Lyng; Moor Lane, North Curry; Langport Road, Muchelney; Muchelney Road, Huish Episcopi (pictured below).

Muchelney Road Huish Episcopi flood closure gates with Road Closed Flood signs

The new gates - if and when they are used - will be accompanied by comprehensive diversions and signage.

The gates can be operated by Somerset Couny Council or the emergency services, based on flood information provided by the EA.

When gates are closed, essential services - along with some local residents and landowners - are being given padlock combination numbers to allow access if strictly necessary.

Calling Friends of the Levels

A year-long series of walks, events and celebrations is being planned for the Somerset Levels and Moors, with the start date pencilled in for February 2: World Wetlands Day.

The idea is to encourage people to share their personal passion for the place, then work together to inform and agree a collective and common vision for the Levels and Moors, then plan how this vision might be realised.

For more details throughout the year, keep an eye on www.hillstolevels.co.uk

For more information about the SRA - or if you’d like to receive future copies of The Stream - call 01823 357824 or email sra@somerset.gov.uk 

Download a PDF of The Stream SRA Progress Update January 2016 

Click here to download a PDF of the January 2016 issue of The Stream.

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The Flood Action Plan is now overseen by the Somerset Rivers Authority and can be contacted on the above.