Angling: Dredging report by Trust errs on the side of caution

The River Esk in Goathland. PIC: Graham Warrender
The River Esk in Goathland. PIC: Graham Warrender
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REMEMBER the horrendous floods which took place last year, mainly in the South of England, when thousands of acres of land were under water with houses and villages marooned.

Blame was bandied about by different ‘official bodies, with the lack of, or limited dredging coming out as a potential culprit for these floods, which were terrible, the worst in living memory.

But at least the Angling Trust did something constructive about the situation.

They commissioned a study which was recently presented by the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management and their conclusions were that purely relying on dredging would make downstream communities even more vulnerable.

For instance, if the Aire in Leeds was dredged then such as Castleford would suffer the effects of the extra water.

In our area, I believe the problem started in the 1940s and 1950s when the North York Moors were designated as wetlands and drains were dug out all over the place so that the excess water could run off quicker and let the land dry off, making it availabled for farming purposes.

We appear to be feeling the aftermath of that decision now; I can now hardly remember a winter when such as the River Ouse at York was not carrying some 10 to 12 feet of extra water for weeks on end.

The answer, according to the report, is to restore the old flood plains as the evidence shows that flood risks are best managed by holding the water back for as long as possible at the top of the catchment area and protecting the existing flood plains from further development. The best bet would be to fill in those newly constructed drains.

The report also says that dredging is not a one-off solution as it is just one method of reducing the floods, if only slightly.

I think that one of the problems is that a lot of the work is carried out without taking expert advice and I can give you a couple of examples. About 40 years ago someone on the then Water Authority decided that the best way to prevent the River Wharfe below Tadcaster from flooding was to widen the river so allowing more water to be carried in times of flooding.

So, when the earth-moving equipment moved on, they widened the river by about three yards, but left it on the top of the river bank. Of course, as we predicted at the time, when the first flood waters arrived all of that discarded earth was worked back into the river.

The river was now shallower than it had ever been, with sections like Ouston Farm, which used to be 10 feet deep, can now be crossed in wellingtons!

The best solution to flooding that I have seen was in 1950 when work commenced on the Great Ouse Relief Channel in Norfolk.

This was a massive engineering project, as a huge waterway was created by digging a channel 80 yards wide, 10 feet deep and 10.5 miles long. There was a sluice gate at Denver at the top end and another at the bottom.

When the Ouse was in flood the excess water was directed into the new channel and then at low tide was released into the sea via another sluice.

To do a job like that today would cost billions, but it did prove to be a pretty good fishery as well.

Belle Isles Jason Passy showing one of the largest Wharfe specimens caught at an impressive weight of 12lb 5ozs.

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