Wednesday, 3 July 2013

More than a finger in the dyke?

The Environment Agency announced earlier this year that they are to relinquish the responsibility for maintaining the two pumping stations and associated infrastructure that drain the Frodsham & Ince marshes in 2015.   The agency spends around £70k per year on maintenance.

The pumps are antiquated and date from the 1940s.  They are working at the moment - but they are becoming increasingly temperamental.  Spare parts have to be fabricated.

That said around 80% of the water draining the marshes leaves through a siphon under the ship canal - only 20% of the water is pumped.

The Agency has expressed the position quite frankly - they have higher priorities with regard to flood risk than our marshes.  They have estimated that it will cost around £2.7m to maintain the pumps etc for the next 100 years when accounting in today's money.

The Agency with CWaC has convened a steering group of all interested parties with a view to seeing what can be done going forward.  It looks like some form of local drainage board will be created bringing together all interested parties which necessarily includes:

  • land owners and occupiers;
  • local businesses dependent on their land being drained effectively; and
  • CWaC and the neighbouring parish and town councils of Ince, Elton, Helsby and Frodsham.

At the risk of stating the very obvious all of us living in and around the estuary have a vested interest in ensuring that the marshes drain effectively.  None of us want local flooding of any residential area or of our principal roads or the motorway.

Having listened to the local farmers there has clearly been an issue regarding the maintenance of the main drainage channels over recent years.  They have done some significant clearance and de-silting works.  This coupled with the ship canal company de-silting the discharge siphon has, apparently, led to the 'natural' drainage being restored.

As many of us could no doubt envisage, even if we haven't seen, the marshes are criss crossed by drainage channels many of which feed into larger cuts.  These have to be maintained if the marshes are to drain effectively.

FTC is the town council for the greater part of the marshes.  Some 9,500 of us live in Frodsham, again by far the largest community living near the marshes.  We clearly all have a strategic interest in seeing that any new arrangements work for the benefit of all of us.

In the preliminary discussions I have suggested that FTC could, subject to the council agreeing, make some modest financial contribution - but in return we would want to see greater leisure use of the marshes and better public access arrangements.  Wouldn't it be wonderful for our children to learn more about the marshes, the flora and fauna and the significant engineering that has shaped and continues to shape them?

Thoughts and observations anyone?