Dredging - the facts

THERE have been a number of letters in The Hunts Post in recent weeks expressing concerns about the lack of river maintenance. I have read them with interest and would like to take this opportunity to explain the position of the Environment Agency. Dredgi

THERE have been a number of letters in The Hunts Post in recent weeks expressing concerns about the lack of river maintenance. I have read them with interest and would like to take this opportunity to explain the position of the Environment Agency.

Dredging and vegetation management are types of channel maintenance that we will only undertake to reduce flood risk. Prior to the 1980s we undertook routine river maintenance on a major scale, based on annual cycles rather than a scientific assessment of the actual risk. We have since found that it contributed little to the water-carrying capacity of the channel.

River channels convey water only within their banks at low to medium flows. Above this the river will flow onto the floodplain, which is a natural part of the river system. Widening or deepening rivers by dredging beyond their natural profile encourages erosion and deposition. These natural processes work to return the river to its natural profile.

Dredging is not a sustainable way to manage a river and comes at great cost to the taxpayer but, where it's critical to flood risk reduction, we continue to do maintenance work.


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We maintain 22,800 km of main river in England and Wales and we spend around £34million per year on dredging and vegetation management. We assess our work to ensure the money we spend gives the greatest reduction in flood risk, but we also make hard choices about where we can and cannot continue to undertake maintenance works, which mean we are not doing things now that we did in the past.

We are statutory consultees to local planning authorities, and through the planning process we ensure there is no inappropriate development in the flood plain and that surface water disposal from new developments does not increase flood risk.

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Looking forward, we all need to take responsibility for adaptation and resilience to future flooding. It's important to remember that we cannot stop flooding completely, but we have to accept that we live with flood risk and look at ways we can all work together to reduce the impact of floods in the future by building resilience into our properties and our lives.

If you would like to know more about any of the issues raised here, then visit our website, www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood.

PETA DENHAM

Area flood risk manager

Environment Agency

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