The Environment Agency has dredged 4 km (8 km of river bank) of the Parrett and Tone and is now passing halfway in the dredging operation.
The dredging is being undertaken using a mixture of floating equipment, large excavators mounted on the riverbanks and even amphibious dredgers. This range of equipment is needed to cope with the large tidal range in the river and the soft ground conditions on the banks.
A fleet of tractors and trailers, many driven by local farmers, are carrying the silt away for spreading on agricultural land or for floodbank strengthening. A crop has already been harvested from the first fields that the silt was spread on, back in April.
So far, the Agency has removed approximately 80,000 tonnes of silt and remain on programme to complete work by the end of October.
This is a major civil engineering project and the Environment Agency is monitoring the impact on the natural environment.
Graham Quarrier for the Environment Agency said:
We have discovered water voles on the River Tone on a section of bank where we are due to start dredging shortly. We have worked closely with Natural England to obtain an appropriate license. We will be trapping and relocating them over the next week, including checking and setting the traps over the weekend. This will ensure that the completion is not delayed and that we don’t harm a protected species during our works.
The Environment Agency will be holding a community open morning between 10am and 12.30pm on Saturday 30 August at the dredging compound at Samways Farm on Riverside in Burrowbridge.
Graham Quarrier added:
We would ask people to come along to find out more about the dredging and the other work we are completing in the local area. As well as completing the dredge, we are repairing local ‘assets’ like river banks, pumping stations, including improvements to Northmoor Pumping Station, sluices, gates and coastal flood defences that were damaged in the floods. These repairs include work mentioned in the 20 year plan for the Somerset levels and moors.