The Environment Agency has this week started an £800,000 programme of work on the rivers Aire and Worth to remove gravel and silt deposited by the winter floods.
The deposits, known as shoals, built up in the rivers during the flooding as large volumes of water picked up debris and distributed it along the river system. The shoals increase the likelihood of flooding as they reduce the width of the river channel and create blockages under bridges.
Two clearing teams are expected to take around four weeks to clear the debris at 10 sites along the rivers, including sites in Kirkstall, Keighley, Cottingley, Bingley, Silsden, and Earby. In Bingley, where debris has accumulated under two of the five arches of Ireland Bridge, work is due to start on 30 August. Environment Agency contractors will first of all create an access ramp from the Brown Cow car park and then they will work in the water, using heavy equipment to remove the shoals that are currently restricting flow through the arches of Ireland Bridge.
They will also clear the entrance to the fish pass which has become silted up, allowing fish to once again bypass the upstream weir. Most of the material will be taken off site, however some of the very large rocks will be reused to help protect the base of the river bank at the Brown Cow.
Lee Riley-Thompson, working in asset recovery at the Environment Agency said:
Since the winter flooding we have been working hard to inspect and repair damaged defences across the region. Removing these gravel deposits will further reduce flood risk to communities in and around Bradford and Keighley.
We have worked closely with our biodiversity team in order to minimise any potential impact the removal of the shoals may have on fish and wildlife in the area. Carrying out the work this month is an ideal time to avoid fish spawning periods and the bird nesting season.
On Boxing Day 2015 severe rainfall caused flooding across the Bradford district, with over 800 homes flooded and roads and bridges closed. Since then, Environment Agency teams have carried out thousands of inspections, made crucial repairs and constructed temporary defences.