Somerset County Council and partners today toasted the formal finishing of the second stage of major flood protection works at Beer Wall.
Four culverts, measuring two metres tall by three metres wide, have been installed under the A372. They will allow water to pass under the road at times of severe flooding, and they will enable forthcoming Environment Agency works to increase the capacity of the River Sowy.
The A372, a well-used route across the Somerset Levels, is now open to traffic having been closed since April to allow the works to take place. During the winter floods of 2013-14, it was shut for several weeks due to flooding along the stretch at Beer Wall, and then to accommodate emergency pumping.
The county council-led scheme has been carried out by contractor Skanska as part of Somerset’s 20 Year Flood Action Plan, now overseen by Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA).
Cllr John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council and SRA Chair, said: “I’m thrilled to see our part of this big and complicated project complete. It’s been a remarkable piece of engineering and demonstrates what can be achieved when partners work hand-in-hand.
“Anyone who witnessed those winter floods will know just how important schemes like this are. As well as the human cost, the financial cost has been estimated at up to £148m.
“No-one can stop future flooding, but projects like this and the Flood Action Plan work being overseen and developed by the SRA will reduce its likelihood and impact. I know the road closure has been a disruption for local residents and businesses and I’m delighted that the route is open again just in time for the summer holidays.”
As well as keeping the A372 open, the three-stage Beer Wall scheme is designed to reduce flood risk in the Sowy and King’s Sedgemoor Drain river systems. The Environment Agency will soon be starting Phase 3 which will see the Langacre and part of the River Sowy diverted through the new culverts to increase the capacity of the system. This third and final phase of works will not require a road closure.
Funding for the first two phases of the Beer Wall works came from the Department for Transport as part of its contribution to the 20 Year Flood Action Plan.
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “The £22 million the government provided to Somerset County Council has helped re-establish a key road link and reduce the risk of future flooding.
“I know local residents, businesses and road users have been awaiting the re-opening of this road for some time and I would like to pay tribute to them as well as Somerset County Council and their contractors who have worked tirelessly to reach this milestone.”
Mark Shopland, Contracts Manager at Skanska commented: “We are delighted that another key part of this significant scheme is complete. Our close working relationship with the council played a key role in overcoming any challenges we faced and ensured its successful delivery.”
You can view photographs from the reopening on the Council’s Flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somersetcountycouncil/sets/72157653789081964