Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Put the hobby horse away

I don't want to write more about flooding because I've said all this before, but the idiocy is coming thick and fast. No two catchments are the same. Cumbria is not Somerset. Moreover, freshwater silt clearing is not gravel bed clearing and both are worlds apart from marine dredging. Marine dredging has its entirely separate laws dealing with shipping channels and river basins, but not watercourses.

Dredging works in Somerset - but even that has caveats. Ditches, trenches and rhynes with gravity gates give you the added capacity. It does not prevent flooding but it does reduce the depth and duration. The rivers also need serious attention. But they are not rivers in the Levels. They are drains. Man-made.

Cumbria is another matter. Not only are there separate catchments, there are also different policies for different parts of the river depending on whether they are gravel or silt beds. And quite obviously you can't dredge bedrock. In some places you could dredge, but there is very little point when you have winter tides flushing it all back upstream.

Then there's the Pennines which is a network of dams, drains, canals, ditches, channels and rivers. It all needs attention and a lot of modernisation but even if you did it all in one hit, you would still get floods. The geomorphology alone changes from year to year.

In this you have local by-laws, national laws, EU laws, flood prevention laws, sustainability laws, water quality laws, and habitats laws and probably a whole strata of law I'm not even aware of - with multiple agencies and multiple lines of accountability - all with conflicting agendas and priorities - all of which have to be accommodated.

To say it is complex is an understatement and no two experts agree on anything. So really, stop pushing hobby horses about planting trees and not building on floodplains and pay no attention to the media or anyone seeking to politicise it. It isn't the cuts, it isn't EU law and it isn't something you can wade into overnight and expect to understand. All of it is true and none of it is true. It's one giant complex issue that may never be satisfactorily resolved.

The only certainty I can really offer is that George Monbiot is wrong and so is Ukip. But when is that ever not the case?

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