£3m price of saving flooded Somerset farms from disaster
As the waters recede across the country, farmers in Somerset are still counting the million-pound costs of floods that have only just drained after five months.
Thousands of acres were devastated as crops rotted under 11 million litres of water, leaving farmers angry and fearing for the future.
This week, officials from the Environment Agency met counterparts at other bodies responsible for the environment, to look at what can be done to manage the waters.
Curry Moor has traditionally acted as a safety valve for the River Tone, relieving the pressure on the waterway and protecting homes and businesses further upstream in Taunton.
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In June, farmer Tony Bradford said: “There has been no dredging work for years because of cutbacks,” he said. “We have been asking for more to be done but the answer always comes back that there’s no money. You are never going to stop flooding on Curry Moor but you can certainly do things which will speed up the evacuation of the water.”
Earlier this week, more than 70mm of rain fell on Curry Moor, the River Tone and spillways, channels which help to divert water, operated.
One option to come from the meeting of the Environment Agency, Defra, Natural England, the NFU and councils would divert water from Curry Moor which suffered so badly in this summer’s torrential rain, to neighbouring North Moor. It would utilise the existing Lyng cutting, but new channels would also need to be dug and the scheme could cost £2-3 million, according to a report by the Environment Agency.
The cost of another option, which is it is thought could cut flooding on Curry Moor by 55 per cent, has not yet been evaluated. It would involve raising the left bank of the River Tone at the upper end of the Moor, increasing the capacity of the River Tone in the area, raising Hook Bridge spillway and widening the River Parrett between its confluence with the Tone and North Moor.
Alan Lovell, chairman of the Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, said: “This meeting underlined what many of us knew already – there really is no easy answer to address the challenge of managing the huge volumes of water which we have seen this summer. All of the parties involved are working to try and strike the balance between the needs of the agricultural community and the environment.
This summer’s freak rain led to the Moor filling several times. There were 11 million cubic metres of water on the Moor in early May, and a further three million cubic metres in mid-July.
This week’s report suggest that dredging may not be a simple solution. Fine silt does eventually find its way to the sea, clearing it out entirely could clear the way for tidal gravel to be pushed further into the rivers.
Heavy metals and hydrocarbons are also present in some areas and a licence may be needed to remove contaminated silt.
Peter Maltby, chairman of the Consortium of Internal Drainage Boards said: “Participants were keen to explore the possibilities of getting water to North Moor through Lyng Cutting.
“We will report back to a meeting of this group on January 22 with detailed costs.”
SEPTEMBER FLOOD CHAOS IN SOMERSET - PICTURE SPECIAL