[Diggers350] Somerset Levels no dredge toad pontificates from afar - or trust local community?

Ram Selva seeds at snail.org.uk
Tue Feb 4 21:20:32 GMT 2014

what land rights activists need to pay attention to more is Hinkley 
Point and land 'rights' activists who work for nuclear (and other dodgy) 
industiry propaganda.


On 2014-02-04 17:46, Tony Gosling wrote:
> Having spoken to locals I'm quite clear.
> Over decades silt builds up and up and up so trees start growing
> several yards out from the banks - locals have pix
> Volume of water escaping to the sea for the 12 hours every day around
> low tides is up between 3 and 4 times with dredging. much greater
> cross section = much greater water flowing out.
> Nobody seems to have picked up on the glaring fact that the
> Environmnet Agency sluice is CLOSED when it should be open - broken -
> stuck - nobody seems to know.
> Did anybody here have a look at the video I shot?
> Rather too easy to have a Chris Smith style view from afar.
> I do wonder what land rghts activists are up to saying anything other 
> than
> Let the people who live there, only a few of which are farmers of
> course, manage the levels flood budget however they want.
> T
> At 00:13 02/02/2014, david bangs wrote:
>> I think George M, Simon F, and Rob's contributions have been good and 
>> convincing.
>> Just to say...a very large proportion of the Somerset Levels (the 
>> southern moors like West Sedgemoor, Kings Sedgemoor, Wet Moor etc; the 
>> middle moors, like Westhay and Tealham Moors etc) are SSSIs, and some 
>> sites are National Nature Reserves.
>> I'm a long way away, but I don't hear enough defending this statutory 
>> national interest compared to wot I hear from reactionary MPs, Owen 
>> Paterson, and farmers.
>> There's a good article on the attempts to staunch the steep decline of 
>> breeding waders on the Levels in the latest 'British Wildlife' 
>> (ironically titled 'Farewell to the Silver Meadows ?' Vol 25, Dec 
>> 2013, pages 77 - 84), in which it's made clear that much of the 
>> critical wildlife interest has shrunk back to the conservation-owned 
>> nature reserves, DESPITE the statutory protection of so much of the 
>> wider Levels.
>> Many folk will remember the appalling farmer-conservationist clashes 
>> of thirty plus years ago over drainage in the Levels, after which 
>> which some amelioration of the worst farmer / drainage board practices 
>> was made.
>> It's not just changes in upstream farming that need to take place (as 
>> all three above have suggested).
>> I, for one, can't take the prescriptions of angry Levels farmers 
>> seriously (dredge and dredge) when its impossible to separate their 
>> contributions from the feeling that their own farming practices are 
>> damaging and anti-social,
>> Dave Bangs
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: <mailto:chapter7 at tlio.org.uk>Simon Fairlie
>> To: <mailto:diggers350 at yahoogroups.com>diggers350 at yahoogroups.com
>> Sent: Saturday, February 01, 2014 5:32 PM
>> Subject: [Diggers350] Fwd: Somerset levels - monks that dug them knew 
>> undredged rivers do not drain
>> Begin forwarded message:
>>> From: ReedMace <<mailto:reedmace at ymail.com>reedmace at ymail.com>
>>> Date: 1 February 2014 15:30:30 GMT
>>> To: Simon Fairlie <<mailto:chapter7 at tlio.org.uk>chapter7 at tlio.org.uk>
>>> Subject: Re: Somerset levels - monks that dug them knew undredged 
>>> rivers do not drain
>>> Simon,
>>> Perhaps you can post it on my behalf.
>>> Speaking as a professional hydrologist there are merits on all sides 
>>> of the argument. Clearly it is an emotive subject, particularly for 
>>> those experiencing the flooding at the moment. However, I'm not sure 
>>> emotive language and insults help anyone.
>>> The main issues are of scale and importance. Although I don't know 
>>> the Somerset Levels well, I do know the Fens - a similarly engineered 
>>> expanse of very flat drains.
>>> The Levels are man-made and therefore cannot be directly compared to 
>>> natural catchments whereby water flows through the soil structure 
>>> towards the lowest point, as they do in the upper catchments. 
>>> Likewise the channels have been artificially created/widened. But 
>>> because the area is flat, flow occurs, not due to the gradient in the 
>>> river bed, but the gradient in the water level. This is how pumping 
>>> works - it artificially lowers the water level at one location 
>>> creating a surface (or energy) gradient that allows water to move 
>>> towards it. A head (difference in water levels) is therefore required 
>>> in order for flow to take place between two points.
>>> In this type of situation, dredging will help a little, but only by 
>>> increasing storage - it does not increase the energy gradient. This 
>>> is George Monbiot's point. The better solutions by far are to do with 
>>> changes in upstream land use, retaining soil on the land and 
>>> improving soil structure, as both George and Simon say. Undertaken 
>>> over reasonably large areas these activities will retain water longer 
>>> in the upper catchment, while it is still widely distributed, rather 
>>> than trying to deal with it once it is all concentrated in the water 
>>> course. Note that any tree planting undertaken in this regard must 
>>> not be done by ploughing perpendicular to the contours (as is 
>>> Forestry Commision practice). This will result in the opposite 
>>> effect, creating hundreds of additional drainage conduits straight 
>>> downhill in the upper catchment that wil significantly increase the 
>>> rate of catchment response to rainfall, exacerbating the situation 
>>> downstream.
>>> More drains won't help either because they won't increase the 
>>> discharge capacity of the system - only the available storage - 
>>> which, as George points out, is minuscule compared to the volume of 
>>> flood water. The monks built the drains, not to cope with flooding 
>>> from the upper catchment, but to drain the local soils so they could 
>>> grow wool and food. It's a bit like saying we need a few extra minis 
>>> to evacuate a city. Of course there is always the option of building 
>>> vast concrete trapezoidal channels for the water, which is what has 
>>> been done in the Fens (and in places like Jeddah and Kuwait City to 
>>> cope with the sudden and enormous volumes of desert floods).
>>> However, the fact that twice the average monthly rainfall has fallen 
>>> in the wettest January on record actually also plays a small part in 
>>> this. That is a LOT of water. To say the flooding is entirely a 
>>> man-made disaster is, I hope, hyperbole (notwithstanding the rather 
>>> banal comment that there's been 'no cloudburst or crazy storm'). But 
>>> the solutions advocated in the farmer's article, I suggest, really 
>>> wouldn't make much difference to the situation at all - the land is 
>>> flat (that is, neither uphill nor downhill - no disrespect to Mr 
>>> Temperley) and dredging 15 miles won't change that.
>>> As for the claim that last year saw a once-in-a-lifetime flood, so we 
>>> shouldn't have another one the next year, well that's often the way 
>>> climate works and statistics don't. And it's no secret that climate 
>>> statistics have been being broken on a fairly regular basis over the 
>>> last 20 years. Are we experiencing a shift in the climate's 
>>> underlying statistical distribution? I am just slightly surprised 
>>> no-one has mentioned climate change - warmer, wetter winters are 
>>> exactly what have been predicted since I first started working on 
>>> climate-change impacts over 25 years ago.
>>> Rob
> --
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