Law prevents effective flood control

HAVING read the letters in recent weeks about flooding, and having farmed cattle in the Ouse floodplain at St Ives for many years, it has become obvious that river levels are rising much faster after periods of heavy rainfall than before, and also taking

HAVING read the letters in recent weeks about flooding, and having farmed cattle in the Ouse floodplain at St Ives for many years, it has become obvious that river levels are rising much faster after periods of heavy rainfall than before, and also taking a lot longer to recede.

This is probably due to expansion of towns in the catchment area, meaning faster run-off and also more intense periods of rain, the latter of which we can have no influence over.

To take a simplistic view, it would appear then that the river water is not exiting the river system (into the sea) fast enough. This could be blamed on lack of dredging downstream from, say, Earith where the river is tidal: no amount of dredging or cleaning out ditches upstream of here would get rid of the water any quicker out to sea.

The Environment Agency does, however, have a way of getting rid of the floodwater more quickly and so reducing the chance of serious flooding occurring - and what is more it would cost them nothing at all. When heavy rainfall is forecast, the sluice gates to the Old Bedford River (which is basically a flood relief channel) could be opened, thereby releasing millions of gallons of water out to sea before the river begins to flood.


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As I understand it, at the moment this is done automatically when the river level reaches a certain height, ie about two feet higher than normal. Surely, if this were done sooner, it would reduce the risk of flooding further upstream as the water backs up.

To prove my point, on October 5, we had an inch or more of rain, which was forecast well in advance and the following day, travelling through Earith, I saw the river was nearly on the road, but the sluice gates were still shut on the Old Bedford and there was no floodwater going through them. With heavy rain forecast for the following day, surely if the gates had been opened on the Sunday, a lot of the water would already have been well on its way out to sea.

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Apparently the levels at which the gates are opened were set by an ancient Parliamentary Act and cannot be altered - does this not seem ludicrous giving the amount of flooding in recent years?

If you imagine the river system is a giant long bath with lots of taps along the way (river tributaries) which are all turned on when it rains, doesn't it make sense to pull the plug out (open sluice gates) before the bath overflows?

JAMES ANDERSON

Priory Farm

Needingworth

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