SRA Annual Report 2018-19: River Brue Catchment (W1)
A lot of water in the catchment of the River Brue comes down to North Drain Pumping Station (PS). So it is important for a wide area that the station works as effectively as possible.
Pumping water from the North Drain into the Brue, as and when required, helps to avoid flooding on 9,700 acres of land.
In 2018, the Environment Agency used SRA funding and contractors AMCO to remove North Drain Pumping Station’s 50-year-old leaking and collapsing concrete roof. It’s been replaced with a lightweight modern roof. The walls have been re- pointed, cracks have been stitched together using steel rods and crumbling bricks have been replaced. The work took 14 weeks.
Elsewhere in the Brue catchment, Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium have been working on SRA-funded plans for bank repairs along Decoy Rhyne. Surveys have been done and preliminary designs drawn up, in preparation for works going out to tender.
Repairs along Decoy Rhyne are needed for two main reasons. Firstly, in times of high flow, water can overtop or percolate through the banks. This causes land to flood and then, potentially, roads and properties. Dispersing this water generally requires pumping via North Drain Pumping Station. The second reason is that banks need to be stabilised to allow future maintenance and de-silting activities to be carried out.
Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium have also let a contract on behalf of the SRA to consultants Edenvale Young Associates. They have begun investigating ways of reducing flood risks from the River Brue and Southwood Brook to a stretch of road between Keinton Mandeville and Baltonsborough, and properties in Tootle Bridge and Catsham.
Both of these hamlets have a history of flooding, particularly Catsham. For example, there are two homes in Catsham that face a 50% chance of flooding every year from Southwood Brook and the Brue. The most vulnerable property in Tootle Bridge has a 10% chance of flooding every year from the Brue. The Environment Agency has records of homes flooding in this area more than 10 times since 1999. A sewage pumping station is also at high risk.
A strategy for the whole Brue catchment is being developed by Emilie Graille of Somerset Catchment Partnership. In March 2019, Ms Graille ran a Water Quantity and Climate Change workshop at the IDBs’ offices in Highbridge with members of the SRA’s Technical Group. This covered numerous topics including Water and flood risk management, Land management and sustainable agriculture, Waste water management, Ecosystems and connected habitats and Working with stakeholders.
New SRA plans for the Brue
The SRA has been re-formulating its plans for the Brue. Following a series of workshops and meetings with partners, money that was originally allocated to dredging the Brue is going to be split three ways.
1 Brue de-silting
A significant percentage is still earmarked for de-silting works on the Brue between Westhay and North Drain Pumping Station. Carefully optimising the river’s capacity will help to reduce the frequency, depth and extent of flooding. It will also help with the implementation of existing Water Level Management Plans in the Brue’s catchment, and support favourable conditions for wildlife on several legally-protected sites (Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Areas, Ramsar Wetland of International Importance).
2 Highbridge flood alleviation
An SRA contribution will enable a major £1.5 million flood alleviation scheme to go ahead in Highbridge. Led by Wessex Water, the scheme will protect 21 homes in Field Way. The SRA will use Growth Deal funding from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership for this work.
3 More repairs at North Drain Pumping Station
Detailed plans have been drawn up for a second phase of repairs and improvements at North Drain Pumping Station. As with the first phase, this work will be led for the SRA by the Environment Agency. It will include repairing the station’s gravity sluice, which has significant cracks in its wingwalls. Were the structure to fail, and control flaps become inoperable, a wide area of Tealham and Tadham Moors could be inundated. Forced reliance on pumping alone would be expensive and significantly increase the carbon footprint of the pumping station. Upstream reaches of the Brue could also potentially run dry, causing extensive environmental harm.