News story

Derwent flood recovery 6 months after Desmond unleashed his wrath

As summer approaches, Environment Agency staff and flood affected communities remain focused on recovery and being ready for winter.

Glass panel repairs at Keswick
Glass panel repairs at Keswick

It is now almost 6 months (6 months on June 4) since Storm Desmond hit, the emergency repairs to defences have been finished, over 30,000 tonnes of gravel have been moved and investigations are well underway to pin point the cause and extent of flooding. The findings will mean we have the evidence needed to ensure the right work can take place in the right areas to create the best protection for the people of Cumbria.

The data gathered by the investigations will be used to update our mapping modelling and flood warning service.

Kathryn Tanner, Recovery Manager, for the Environment Agency, said:

Since December, the Environment Agency has been working hard to protect local communities. We’ve been tackling the emergency repairs needed and clearing debris from channels washed down by the winter floods. This work will continue throughout the summer so that we’re ready for winter 2016.

We’ve also employed a number of flood and engineering experts to support our investigations of the cause and extent of the December floods. They’ve helped us to identify what worked and what didn’t, what additional actions could help with future floods and also how to better work with, rather than against nature and the existing landscape to reduce the risk of future flooding.

The findings of these investigations will inform the Flood Investigation Reports being produced by Cumbria County Council, which we can then use to inform community flood risk management plans and future spending on flood defences.

These will form part of the whole river catchment action plans which Cumbria Flood Partnerships are developing. These draw together and identify additional actions required to reduce flood risk from source to the sea.

So far 8 recovery projects have been completed on the River Derwent including Pumping station repairs, wall replacements at Cockermouth and Maryport, as well as embankment repairs at Southwaite Mill. 14 repair projects including flood defence repairs, Keswick glass panel and asset repairs, embankment repairs, rebuilding flood defences at Barepot, gravel removal and the stabilisation of a landslip are currently being carried out, with a further 5 projects in the planning stages.

At the same time, the Cumbria Floods Partnership, led by Floods Minister Rory Stewart, is re-examining the river catchments in Cumbria from the source to the sea, to make sure that money spent on the environment, farming, and water supply contributes to flood protection. Their aim is to identify ways to manage and reduce flood risk at the same time delivering wider benefits to the local economy, landscape, wildlife and water quality. The partnership is investigating what actions can be taken upstream to reduce river flows, such as tree-planting and the use of flood storage basins, to supplement downstream actions such as gravel-removal and the construction of flood defences.

The partnership consists of community groups, environmental groups, farming representatives, the Environment Agency, Defra and local authorities. Over 100 communities across Cumbria have been consulted as the partnership drafts the first version of a 25 year action plan that will combine the expertise and flood modelling capacity of the Environment Agency with the local knowledge of those working the land or living within affected communities.

Amy Heys, Catchment Director for the Eden, said:

I’m investigating what organisations and communities can do to reduce the risk of flooding in the Derwent catchment. I’m speaking to communities, organisations, landowners and farmers to consider what we can do upstream to slow the flow of water, and what needs to be done downstream to protect homes, businesses and infrastructure.

I’m working with the NFU and Farmers Network to discuss with farmers in the area the possibilities of using upstream mitigation measures to reduce flood risk.

I’ve earmarked Braithwaite and the Above Derwent Parish as the location for a pilot that will trial a more inclusive community based approach to flood risk planning.

I’ve also been speaking to the Environment Agency, who have commissioned modelling and are working with United Utilities and Keswick Flood Action Group to better understand the impact that Thirlmere has on flood risk in the upper Derwent.

By considering all of these measures alongside the actions that are already underway, we aim to identify an action plan that reduces flood risk along the whole catchment.

Floods Minister Rory Stewart said:

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Cumbrian communities, to volunteers and to officials. It’s fantastic that ‎since Storm Desmond hit last December, Environment Agency teams have undertaken a Herculean task with a £10m flood defence repair programme across Cumbria. And it’s great news that the government has committed a further £68m to flood defences in Cumbria, better protecting more than 3,500 homes across the county.

The Cumbria Floods Partnership is at the heart of managing flood risk in the future. We are looking at how we manage flood risk from source to sea with new Catchment Directors using the best local expertise and knowledge to better protect our communities.

Notes for Editors

During storm Desmond and Eva

  • 6,421 homes and businesses flooded December 2015-January 2016
  • Estimated 2,000 properties protected by EA flood defences.
  • 241 flood alerts and warnings issued over December 2015-January 2016
  • More than 30 additional pumps used around the county, varying size from 3” to 24”.
  • 3,150 raised flood defence assets assessed and programme of repairs put in place.
  • We worked with approximately 100 military from Royal Lancashire Regiment
  • We worked with over 100 contract staff

Since storm Desmond and Eva

  • Inspected 3,273 raised defences, since December 10, 2015
  • Inspected 11,222 defences (this includes high ground where there are no raised defences and culverts).
  • Repaired approximately 250 defences Nationwide
  • Moved 30,000 tonnes of gravel from several locations including; Glenridding, Kendal and Keswick
  • 25,000 tonnes of gravel extracted from River Derwent near the Pencil Museum, Keswick
  • Surveyors visited more than 80 locations
  • Recorded over 1,250 flood levels across Cumbria
  • 56 Wastewater Treatment Works impacted in Cumbria – we have worked closely with United Utilities to manage * this risk and support recovery to normal operations
  • Started work on a new 140 metre, metre high flood wall at Glenridding.

Future Work

  • We have 14 future projects previously identified in our capital programme that we are exploring accelerating (including Kendal ~£24m)
  • We will be reviewing how schemes performed at Carlisle, Cockermouth and Keswick

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact the press office on 0800 9179252. Out of hours please call 0800 028 1989 to reach the duty press officer. Go online www.gov.uk Follow us on Twitter @EnvAgencyNW Check the EA website for live flood alerts and warnings: http://bit.ly/QEBvEJ

Published 26 May 2016