Fund launched to dredge the levels
THE flooding of 2012 may be a distant memory for some but it still haunts many farmers and landowners on the Somerset Levels who were so badly affected; finding their land immersed deep under water for months on end.
Farmers maintain the problem has been caused primarily by the Environment Agency failing to dredge the rivers.
It is estimated this has reduced the carrying capacity of some of the major rivers, such as the Parrett, by as much as 40 per cent, which has resulted in flooding.
As a consequence, a campaign has been launched to raise £4m to prevent future flooding on the levels.
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High-profile farmer Michael Eavis launched the campaign last week at Burrowbridge, near the site of some of the worst flooding, which led to the closure of the A361 to Taunton for many weeks during the wettest periods of 2012 and early 2013.
He said: "They used to have half a dozen drag lines that would be going throughout the winter. It should be so simple to introduce a system that works but it's all been an absolute shambles. Unfortunately the maintenance of the Levels has been an example of central government interference, when it should have been left to the people who know what they are doing.
"One of the benefits of dredging is that you build up the banks at the same time so it's a double whammy effect."
The campaign, which has been organised by the Royal Bath and West of England Society, is aimed at raising the funds required to start dredging works as soon as possible. Edwin White, from Easton near Wells, speaking on behalf of the society said: "This situation has been allowed to develop over the last 10 or 15 years and now it's reached a head with the heavy rains of 2011 and 2012.
"To date, the Environment Agency has pledged £300,000 towards the fund, which seems to be tacit acceptance that dredging will actually help the problem.
"This is despite the fact they maintain dredging is not the long-term solution, although I am not clear what they think is the solution – unless they consider allowing the Levels to flood is acceptable.
"The Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee and Somerset County Council have also pledged the same amount as the Environment Agency.
"Thus the fund has been pump primed with some significant sums of public money but it appears to me that there is still a very long way to go.
"Whether there is an appetite from individuals and the private sector more widely to make the significant donations which will be required to hit the target is, in my mind, open to question."