A flood of neglect, ignorance, arrogance and squabbling
PUBLISHED: 10:33 26 January 2007 | UPDATED: 19:56 01 June 2010
ABOUT 1600, the Duke of Bedford appointed the Dutch drainage engineer Vermuyden to drain the fens. He left us with a marvellous legacy to keep our land dry and our people safe. All we needed to do was look after it. This drainage system benefits all from
ABOUT 1600, the Duke of Bedford appointed the Dutch drainage engineer Vermuyden to drain the fens.
He left us with a marvellous legacy to keep our land dry and our people safe. All we needed to do was look after it.
This drainage system benefits all from Bedford, Cambridge, St Ives, Huntingdon to Ely. If one part of it doesn't work well, it puts a strain on all other parts.
The whole system relies on the River Great Ouse to carry flood water safely to sea at low tide, but the river has silted to a level which now endangers all in this area. Due mainly to neglect, the Bedford Levels are unable to drain efficiently through Welmore Lake Sluice, causing, among other complications, the causeway into Welney to remain flooded for weeks or months at a time.
The Old Bedford Sluice at Salters Lode is sealed shut by hundreds of tons of silt and is completely inoperable.
The sluice gates at Denver are likewise sealed shut, putting Ely at great risk, even though a dredging machine has been on site since about February 2006.
The massive sluice gates at Lynn, at the head of the Relief Channel, our last line of defence, are hardly in any better state. There are acres of silt build-up. This, coupled with mechanical problems, puts us in peril.
The Environment Agency is entirely unable to look after our safety in this matter. This is due, in my opinion, to a complicated mix of neglect, ignorance, arrogance, inter-departmental squabbling and over-reliance on computers.
A concerted dredging campaign needs to be instigated immediately, but won't be, and there is nothing we can do about it except die in the flood while they argue.
The right combination of weather systems and bad luck is building against us. The flooding of the fens is a certainty. The only unknown is how many bodies will be floating in the water.