It is commonsensical to think that dredging the river channel at Mytholmroyd might increase the capacity there and thus reduce the risk of flooding – (hence the February 13 headline ‘Dredge River now’, accompanied by a balancing statement from the Environment Agency) – although maybe that just transfers the risk downstream.
It’s also commonsensical that with the worst January rainfall for 250 years, it’s unlikely that narrow river channels even if dredged could have sluiced away the quantity of water draining from a much larger catchment. And commonsensical again to think that if that water could be detained or stored somewhat in the Calder’s uplands then that would lessen a flood surge pouring down the valley bottom.
So which of these to do and prioritise? And if we’ve only got a fixed amount of money to spend on reducing flood risk what should be the best mix of measures that will deliver the most benefits?
Calder Future, the local river partnership, wants to know as much as anyone else, because after the 2012 floods we were asked by the Environment Agency and then the council to develop a programme of “river stewardship” – the more routine vegetation and debris management along the channel – using volunteers, to go alongside the larger flood reduction investment schemes that the EA has been devising. A work party in Mytholmroyd featured on BBC’s Look North before Christmas.
We’ve said that, for the river stewardship work to have credibility, the communities along the river will first need to have answers to these questions, and that the best way to get them is for everyone to look at the evidence from the detailed computer modelling of various options that the EA are undertaking.
We understand that this has recently been completed for Mytholmroyd, with some intriguing outcomes. Presentations by the EA to the various Flood Action Groups in the Upper Calder Valley have also been informative about the range of activity they are proposing.
We hope that, in a few weeks time, the EA and the Council will be able to organise some community events where everybody, including councillors and MPs who are able to press for more resources if necessary, will be able to look at that evidence, ask questions and maybe reach more of a consensus about the best course of action.
With that out of the way, Calder Future will then be seeking river stewardship volunteers along the Upper Calder Valley. In the meantime we’ve also posted on our website www.calderfuture.org.uk a national EA presentation ‘To Dredge or not to Dredge’, which sets out the general arguments around the issue, which people may find interesting.
Chair, Calder Future