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Somerset Levels dredging work begins

The Environment Agency has begun Somerset Levels dredging on the river as it looks to minimise the risk of a repeat of the heavy flooding that hit the area this winter.

Engineers will work to remove layers of silt that have built up on riverbeds, something that should reduce instances of rivers bursting their banks and flooding surrounding areas.

The Environment Agency said dredging prior to this winter’s floods would not have prevented the damage that occurred, but it is carrying out the work as part of a large-scale plan to safeguard the area.

A five-mile stretch of the rivers Parrett and Tone are first to be dredged, with Craig Woolhouse of the Environment Agency estimated 400,000 tonnes of silt will be removed from rivers in the next six to seven months.

“We’re going to have more machines working in more locations in the coming months to get that work done before next winter and give people more confidence that the sort of flooding they had this year – if we have the same rainfall again – wouldn’t have the same degree of flooding,” he was quoted by the BBC as saying.

Mr Woolhouse added that while it will help reduce the flood risk, dredging is only “part of the answer”, as the Somerset Levels are also influenced by tidal levels, something that are likely to rise as a result of climate change.

This, he explained, is why there are plans to introduce a tidal barrier at Bridgwater and build extra pumping sites, as part of the 20-year Flood Action Plan that would cost £100 million to implement.

The dredging move has been welcomed by Bryony Sadler of the Flooding on the Levels Action Group, who stated it should help significantly reduce the duration of floods. However, she called for further work to also be carried out, such as the construction of the Bridgwater barrier and work on the upper catchment area to slow the flow of water.

Homeowners in vulnerable areas who are worried about the risk of flooding may want to consider taking out insurance for flood risk areas from GSI Insurance Services (Southern) Limited to give them peace of mind.

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