Agency has broader flood responsibilities

LAST week, consultant engineer David Noble argued that there was a fundamental conflict between the Environment Agency s watercourse management responsibilities and its duties to protect wildlife and enhance biodiversity. This week, the Environment Agency

LAST week, consultant engineer David Noble argued that there was a fundamental conflict between the Environment Agency's watercourse management responsibilities and its duties to protect wildlife and enhance biodiversity.

This week, the Environment Agency's area manager, who is based in Brampton, explains that the world has moved on and why David Noble is wrong.

I FULLY respect David's knowledge and experience as a retired employee of the former rivers authority and as a practitioner of land drainage and river maintenance activities over many years. However, I would not expect him to be aware of, or entirely agree with, current Environment Agency science and technology, and Government policy on managing flood risk (www.environment-agency.gov.uk; www.defra.gsi.gov.uk).

It is important that people are clear that land drainage and flood risk management activities are not the same thing. We do a substantial amount of maintenance work each year and the timing and extent of this activity is reviewed regularly. The work is carried out in an environmentally-sensitive way to prevent harming wildlife - something that is both expected of us and required by law.


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But our flood concerns, responsibilities and responses are much broader - giving flood warning, assessing flood risk accurately, building and maintaining defences, influencing better land management (to prevent development in the flood plain, prevent sediment run-off and to 'store' water in flood events).

Following the summer floods of 2007, as a nation we now are facing up to the challenge of flooding that arises not just from rivers, but from inadequate drainage systems in our towns and cities.

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It is therefore entirely appropriate that, in the face of climate change, housing growth and public scrutiny of costs, we deliver sustainable flood risk management using the latest tools and understanding - not simply relying on previously used maintenance regimes, like dredging, which were at best short-term, often the only solution considered, frequently environmentally degrading, sometimes unnecessary, and with associated poor value for money.

I believe the comments in our previous letter from Peta Denham (The Hunts Post, September 10) address all the issues that David has raised, but I would add that, despite the more extensive routine river maintenance activities undertaken in past decades, records show that flooding was still a problem, causing much distress and devastation to those affected.

The dedicated staff at the Environment Agency use the latest knowledge and skill to protect people and property in the Great Ouse catchment, with the same high level of professionalism and pride as David has done throughout his career.

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