Action call to prevent flood catastrophe

South Forty Foot Drain at Swineshead.
South Forty Foot Drain at Swineshead.
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Water levels in Swineshead are “creeping up to disaster” because the South Forty Foot Drain has not been dredged for more than 50 years.

The Spalding Guardian can reveal emergency talks are taking place to prevent devastating scenes of flooding across the county like those in Somerset.

Concern for residents has grown since it was revealed the Environment Agency (EA) is selling 14 of its dredgers for scrap.

Spalding farmer Nicholas Watts said residents only had to look at water levels in the South Forty Foot Drain from Boston to Swineshead and on to Pinchbeck Fen to understand why there is concern.

He said: “Swineshead is creeping up to disaster because the South Forty Foot Drain has not been dredged for more than 50 years.

“People in the Fens are pumping into the drain but it’s lined with reeds and isn’t taking the quantity of water it was designed to.”

An emergency meeting is taking place tomorrow (Friday) between Lincolnshire County Council, the Environment Agency and the Internal Drainage Board.

It was called by Coun Chris Pain, a member the Environmental Scrutiny and Flood and Drainage Committee, who intends to acquire two of the dredgers and raise a fighting fund of £300,000 to start vital dredging work in the county.

He said: “During my investigation into this serious situation I have discovered that the EA is disposing of 14 digging machines for virtually scrap value.

“Bearing in mind that these machines have been paid for by taxpayer’s money, it would seem that this action by the EA is disgraceful considering this critical situation pending the possibility of further floods.

”Because the dredging work in Somerset was neglected, the resulting effect will cost in excess of £100 million to put right.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said work to reduce flood risk was ongoing.

He said: “We are currently carrying out works to remove silt from the tidal River Welland downstream of Marsh Road Sluice in Spalding. These works are carried out annually following an inspection of the area. We started the works a month ago and they should be completed by the end of March.

“Marsh Road Sluice is located where the Coronation Channel meets the tidal River Welland and discharges water from the whole of the Welland catchment to the sea.

“We remove silt build-up from this location to keep the outfall clear and reduce flood risk in Spalding and fenland areas upstream.

“We have removed silt from the whole of the tidal River Welland between Spalding and Fosdyke in the past ten years.

“We have also undertaken weed-cutting of the rivers and grass cutting of raised defences along the river Glen, Welland and the sea defences between Frampton and Terrington in the last year.”

Sutton Bridge saved by a sandbag

In December, homes in Sutton Bridge were saved from flooding as water from the River Nene poured down Lime Street. 
Environment Agency workers put a huge sandbag over the top of the valve and a line of sandbags across the top of Lime Street. Residents said a 10ft high tidal surge led to river water cascading through a riverside drainage valve. 
The river level was between 2ft and six inches from the top of the riverbank and Cross Keys Bridge had to be closed at about 8pm for half-an-hour as around 100 sightseers gathered on the bridge to watch the Nene.