A fresh round of dredging on the River Parrett will begin in the New Year, after the Board of the Somerset Rivers Authority agreed to target a stretch between Northmoor and the M5.

Following on from the dredging of 8km of the Parrett and Tone in 2014, the SRA has picked out 0.75km between Northmoor pumping station and the motorway bridge for a £2.14m scheme to protect people and property and reduce the severity, extent and duration of future flooding.

Hydraulic modelling suggests this new dredging will cut peak water levels in Northmoor by up to 80mm and shorten flooding by up to five days.

John Osman chair Somerset Rivers Authority

The Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium, on behalf of the SRA, is also about to award a contract for maintenance dredging of 2.5km of the River Parrett, upstream of Northmoor pumping station, where a new regime of regular monitoring shows that most silt has built up.

These moves are part of a long series of SRA-funded dredging and desilting operations being carried out and planned across Somerset, at locations including the River Yeo in Ilchester, the River Brue, the Cripps River (Brue catchment), Hixham Rhyne (Axe catchment), and the Mark Yeo river near Mark. The Environment Agency is dredging and desilting 41kms of main drain across the Somerset Levels and Moors, including 10km of the Penzoy river.

John Osman, chairman of the Somerset Rivers Authority, said: “I’ve been to inspect the site of the new dredging near Northmoor and I’ve seen that it is going to be quite a difficult job. Contractors will have to work almost entirely from a platform floating on the water, and that does cost more than working from the banks. But the main purpose of the Somerset Rivers Authority is to deliver higher than normal standards of flood protection, and that’s what we’re doing here and across the county – extra work that makes a real difference to people’s lives.

“I’m also very pleased at how we’re working with our partners to establish a virtuous cycle of modelling, monitoring and maintenance. Getting this process going is a big achievement. Keeping it going is vital. Long term, it brings the best results. That’s why the Somerset Rivers Authority is applying for more interim funding from the government and talking to Ministers about getting our long-term funding sorted out.”

The SRA’s Board also agreed at their meeting on Wednesday, 21 October to seek more cost-effective dredging methods.

Other measures are also being considered. The Board decided that further discussions should be held with people living in Chadmead and Moorland about the idea of building ring banks to give extra protection to properties over and above that achieved by activities such as dredging the Parrett and Tone. Initial consultations this summer showed residents split in their views. The SRA wants to see whether a consensus can be established, in favour or against. No more talks are planned in Fordgate for now because residents there were clearly against the idea of building a ring bank.  

Photo: John Osman, chairman of Somerset Rivers Authority, on a fact-finding visit to the Northmoor area, where 750m of new dredging has been approved.