Ahead of the general election back in June, ADA, the representative association for drainage, water level and flood risk management authorities in the UK, published its own seven-point manifesto to address the urgent need for the new government to give proper consideration to water level and flood risk management.
Since the summer, ADA has been busy reiterating this stance and identifying and supporting new opportunities based on a joined-up approach across all stakeholders and the government. Here, we follow up on the progress and achievements to date and look at future plans and pilot projects.
One of ADA’s key markers for the future has been to promote co-operation and partnership working, ultimately with the aim to manage the water environment and reduce flood risk. ADA has championed the promotion of close co-operation between flood risk authorities, communities, business and land managers, and according to ADA chief executive Innes Thomson, this requires the continued strong support of government to deliver flood risk maintenance and similar activities more efficiently and affordably.
This approach can be demonstrated by the Public-Sector Co-operation Agreement between Black Sluice Internal Drainage Board (IDB) and the Environment Agency (EA). The project, described as a win-win for farmers and the wider community served by Black Sluice IDB, involves carefully removing silt deposits from the bed of the South Forty Foot Drain near Boston, Lincolnshire. Bringing benefits to the whole community, Paul Nicholson, operations manager at Black Sluice IDB gives more details in the case study overleaf.
Another example of this joined-up approach, emanating from ADA’s manifesto, is its support of local governance in flood and water level management decision making. In some parts of England there is an appetite for greater local maintenance delivery on watercourses and flood defence assets, a process referred to as ‘de-maining’.
After much preparatory work and engagement with IDBs, the Environment Agency and other partners involved, ADA was able to announce back in March of this year that Defra has given the green light to a number of pilot projects that propose to ‘de-main’ certain sections of main river across the country. Essentially, the process involves investigating the passing of river maintenance and operational activities from the Environment Agency to IDBs where there is mutual agreement, a locally generated appetite, and a benefit to do so.
“It has been concluded locally for sections of river selected for the pilots, that IDBs may be able to provide routine maintenance and operational services where it was becoming increasingly difficult for the Environment Agency to do so because of its focus on much higher flood-risk areas and assets,” explains Innes Thomson.
“An important element of these pilots will be the consultation with local communities so that they are fully aware of and agree with the planned river maintenance activities to be carried out by the IDBs,” continues Thomson. “It is very important that people understand more about the importance of the river works being proposed for the economic, social and environmental benefit of the local area and communities, and these projects will aim to help spread the word.”
Currently those involved in the pilots are producing information packs that describe the main characteristics of the rivers and assets that will be transferred, and any known management and environmental issues which need to be considered. The next step will be a series of public drop in meetings across the pilot projects in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent, to engage with the local communities. These are to take place in October 2017.
Case study: Black Sluice IDB
Paul Nicholson, Operations Manager, Black Sluice Internal Drainage Board
Specialist Dutch silt management comes to a Lincolnshire river
A small-scale cutter suction dredger from the Netherlands was operated on an inland watercourse in the UK for the first time this summer, helping perform valuable work for Black Sluice IDB in partnership with the Environment Agency. The novel technique has saved time and money in restoring the capacity of a lowland main river, whilst reducing the impact of the work on the environment and wider community.
The machine, named Phoenix, operated by Smals Dredging UK Ltd, was used to carefully remove silt deposits from the bed of the South Forty Foot Drain, near Boston in Lincolnshire. The main river was initially dug in the 17th century to help drain the Lincolnshire Fens southwest of Boston.
Today the embanked river helps drain excess rainwater from surrounding villages and high-grade agricultural land, and creates water capacity for irrigation during dry periods. The channel had become clogged with silt and vegetation and the aim of the project is to restore the design of the channel to improve capacity and conveyance.
The cut silt and water is pumped for up to three kilometres through 250mm diameter pipes floating in the channel into three 4.5-hectare de-watering lagoons constructed alongside the river on adjacent farmland. Here the silt settles out of suspension and the clear water can be drawn off and fed back into the main river.
The clean silt will be used for agricultural purposes, with the silt spread and levelled approximately 300mm thick once it has completely dried out. It is a win-win situation for farmers and the wider community served by Black Sluice IDB.
All of the works are being carried out within the Public-Sector Cooperation Agreement between the IDB and the Environment Agency. A valuable part of the project was an open event in July to explain the specialist technique being used to other flood risk management authorities and the general public, which was attended by over 200 people.
Celebrating its 80th anniversary year, ADA today represents over 230 members and associate members at a national and parliamentary level, including national agencies, local authorities, Regional Flood and Coastal Committees (RFCCs) as well as contractors and suppliers to the industry.
It will continue to play a vital role engaging with Government, the Environment Agency, IDBs, Local Authorities, industry and other stakeholders to deliver an effective, locally governed flood and water level management service.
Available to read on the organisation’s website, ADA’s manifesto also focuses on key challenges and opportunities including Brexit, SuDS and the importance of retaining funding mechanisms for drainage, water level and flood risk management.