River dredging is preferred option to combat Somerset Levels flooding crisis
Dredging of the Rivers Tone and Parrett has been identified as the preferred option to overcome the flooding crisis on the Somerset Levels.
Curry Moor and North Moor have been under water for much of the past eight months after it was initially flooded in April 2012.
Since then, pumps to remove the flood water have been almost constantly running due to the extreme wet weather over the summer, autumn and winter.
Dredging a section of the lower rivers Tone and Parrett was one of several suggestions raised during a meeting between the Somerset Consortium of Drainage Boards and the Environment Agency in Bridgwater.
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Council, NFU, Natural England and RSPB representatives joined local residents at the meeting to discuss how best to overcome the flooding problems on the Levels.
The Environment Agency said in a statement that the meeting agreed dredging, or de-silting, sections of the rivers "could bring the greatest practical benefit of reducing the depth and duration of flooding to these low moors".
But it said carrying out initial de-silting of sections of the Tone and Parrett later this year would hinge on being able to apply for 'special case' Government funding.
"Unfortunately initial calculations show that normal national funding criteria are not met by the first cost benefit analysis for this de-silting work," said the Environment Agency in a statement.
"However, it was agreed to progress this option on the basis it best reflects the needs of the local community and businesses.
"In order to present the best possible case, the Environment Agency, Drainage Boards and Somerset County Council agreed to further refine the benefits calculations including elements attributed to local farming, other businesses, the impact on road and rail infrastructure together with reductions in pumping costs.
"The outcome of this further work will be presented at the next meeting of the Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee on April 22, with a view to seeking endorsement for an application to Government for 'special case' funding to undertake initial de-silting of sections of the Tone and Parrett later this year."
Group chairman Alan Lovell said: "The flooding on the Somerset moors and levels has been a truly devastating experience for everybody locally.
"Many have felt the impact and even with dry weather, which we are unlikely to get in the immediate future as we head into the depths of winter, it will take many months, if not years, for both local people and the moors to recover.
"We need to ensure that we are doing as much as possible to mitigate the effects of future flooding."