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Floods and devastation

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thewilliam
24 Feb 2014 - 5:53 PM

Michael Eavis, president of our Chamber of Commerce, was on the radio the other day, explaining why the EA decided to cease dredging and scrap the equipment a couple of decades ago. Michael was explaining that the primary purpose of EA is to safeguard wildlife which is why they've spent many millions on nature reserves and it was as if the welfare of us Somerset people never came into the equation. This may explain why the government just ignored the floods for something like 6 weeks and why visiting ministers were very careful not to dirty themselves by getting too close to the peasantry. Luckily Prince Charles did show real concern, met plenty of ordinary people and shamed the government into taking action.

It seems that the EA has also decided that hill-farming is harmful for the environment.

Last Modified By thewilliam at 24 Feb 2014 - 5:53 PM
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Paul Morgan
Paul Morgan e2 Member 1315348 forum postsPaul Morgan vcard England6 Constructive Critique Points
24 Feb 2014 - 6:08 PM


Quote: Furthermore, using the dredged silt as a fertilizer is no longer legal because it's now in the highest classification of "special waste", along with spent nuclear fue

That is a bit odd, our rivers are now some of the cleanest in Europe, they have been re-introducing salmon, trout and otters.

They stooped dredging rivers a very long time ago, probably as far back as the forties or fifties, you should have seen the state of the Kennett and Avon, before charitable trust started cleaning up, renewing locks etc.

Advancements in roads killed off a lot of the dredging of our rivers and canals, far fewer people were using them.

Caen hill locks, before work started in the 70`s.
devizeslockspreresotoration.jpg


Caen hill locks now.
789px-caen-hill-locks-in-devizes-arp.jpg


Quote: I can only go by the pathetic excuses given to the Somerset peasantry for the cessation of dredging

Dredging was never the problem, in this case it was more than likely the lack of pumping, in recent years water authorities had been pumping too much causing some rivers to run dry.

tomcat
tomcat e2 Member 95916 forum poststomcat vcard United Kingdom15 Constructive Critique Points
24 Feb 2014 - 7:49 PM

In all fairness it is the EA who have been the leading force in ensuring our rivers/watercourses are now a hell of a lot cleaner than they were thirty years ago

Successful prosecutions and the education of/introduction of legislation to industrial companies to control their waste products have had the desired effect

Some of the crap lying in the bottom of our rivers is better left undisturbed, as removal of same could cause irrevocable damage to flora and fauna

Paul Morgan
Paul Morgan e2 Member 1315348 forum postsPaul Morgan vcard England6 Constructive Critique Points
25 Feb 2014 - 8:42 AM

It will be interesting to see what the next week brings, more rain is forcast for this week end and I here there is risk of more properties getting flooded down my way, we are lucky because we are on top of a hill.

The youtube video I linked to a few pages ago, is one area at high risk, in the 47 floods there were something like 1300 homes flooded in the streets I grew up on alone, if it happens again there will be many times that number flooded, a lot of those old fields are now housing developments.

Last Modified By Paul Morgan at 25 Feb 2014 - 8:45 AM
col_c
col_c  1 United Kingdom
25 Feb 2014 - 9:57 AM

I worked for the Environment Agency since its creation in 1996. Before that I worked in flood defence engineering along the tidal part of the River Thames. To get the go ahead for projects I wanted I have had to complete the government Cost / Benefit Analyses used to assess whether a flood defence is value for money.

The EA does not have the money to build all the flood defences it would like so it has to have a method of prioritising them. Cost / Benefit analysis is the government's chosen method. The whole system is a straight jacket imposed by the Treasury on the EA and while everyone agrees prioritisation has to exist the questiuon is how you do that. The cost / benefit ratios which typically come out of these studies mean that flood defence spending is usually heavily skewed towards the town rather than the country.

Fairly recently it was realised that the c/b analyses were favouring high value residential property in affluent areas so the government added extra weighting for 'deprived' areas - however you assess that. But the formula still favoured town over country. It is the operation of this cost / benefit formula which is at the heart of the problem for the Somerset Levels and other rural areas. It means that they are not given the priority that is required to maintain them as farm land.

So the system the EA has to work under for prioritising flood defence work is a blunt and flawed instrument. I was pleased that when David Cameron announced a post-event inquiry to learn lessons from the flooding, the operation of the Cost / benefit formula was right at the top of the list of things to be investigated.

But even if that formula is tweaked to adjust where the money goes, the UK may well have to spend much more on flood defence in the future. Labour and Conservative accuse each other of cutting flood defence budgets but the plain fact is that no government of any colour has spent enough to prevent the sorts of flooding we are now seeing.

If we take the Dutch as a model of how to do flood defence properly the first thing we notice is that their flood defence budgets are gigantic compared to ours. I was talking to a Dutch government flood defence engineer recently and he said their main problem was finding enough qualified engineers and contractors to do all the projected budgeted work.

So it all comes down to money. Lots of it. Until flood defence is properly funded by government we will continue to get these devastating floods.

JJGEE
JJGEE  96303 forum posts England18 Constructive Critique Points
25 Feb 2014 - 10:13 AM


Quote: their main problem was finding enough qualified engineers and contractors to do all the projected budgeted work.

have you sent them your cv ? Wink

JJGEE
JJGEE  96303 forum posts England18 Constructive Critique Points
25 Feb 2014 - 11:17 AM

Birling Gap - East Sussex
This story will not mean much to those not familiar with the location but I am and have spent many hours over the years drinking coffee and having a snack there as an excuse for getting out of the cold winds for a few moments ! !
It appears that the main cafe / gift shop & toilets are still OK for the time being but the steps down to the beach are still closed.

Last Modified By JJGEE at 25 Feb 2014 - 11:22 AM
thewilliam
25 Feb 2014 - 11:24 AM


Quote: The cost / benefit ratios which typically come out of these studies mean that flood defence spending is usually heavily skewed towards the town rather than the country. Fairly recently it was realised that the c/b analyses were favouring high value residential property in affluent areas.

I was talking to a Dutch government flood defence engineer recently and he said their main problem was finding enough qualified engineers and contractors to do all the projected budgeted work.

Over the last few decades, our government has favoured "our people", the wealthy few, and New Labour was just Conservative by another name. It doesn't surprise me to learn that we peasantry weren't considered woth protecting.

As for the shortage of engineers, that too has been government policy. I was fired, along with many other lecturers in engineering, because there was a shift from the "dirty" to the clean in Further and Higher Education. Media Studies was the fashion, even though most of the graduates couldn't get jobs in their field.

Remember when James Dyson wanted to open (and bankroll) a new technology college in Bath a couple of years back? This was opposed so vehemently by both local and national government so Dyson dropped the idea. I suspect that if Dyson had wanted to open a media college, the idea would have been supported!

Last Modified By thewilliam at 25 Feb 2014 - 11:25 AM
Paul Morgan
Paul Morgan e2 Member 1315348 forum postsPaul Morgan vcard England6 Constructive Critique Points
25 Feb 2014 - 11:25 PM


Quote: Over the last few decades, our government has favoured "our people", the wealthy few, and New Labour was just Conservative by another name. It doesn't surprise me to learn that we peasantry weren't considered woth protecting

Are you flooded out or just down and out Smile

Politics have nothing to do with this.

The winter of 2012 was one of the driest on record, this years its one of the wettest on record and I can`t see how this flooding could have been prevented.

Last Modified By Paul Morgan at 25 Feb 2014 - 11:30 PM
collywobles
26 Feb 2014 - 9:29 AM


Quote: As for the shortage of engineers, that too has been government policy. I was fired, along with many other lecturers in engineering, because there was a shift from the "dirty" to the clean in Further and Higher Education. Media Studies was the fashion, even though most of the graduates couldn't get jobs in their field

The reason we do not have enough technical qualified people is that graduates think its too tough to do the Maths and Sciences and some would say even the Arts such as History and Literature, and would sooner settle for a 'soft' degree with little future like Media Studies which contribute nothing to the economy of the UK. Employers see the rationale with this, so its no surprise 80% of them cant get a job.

keith selmes
26 Feb 2014 - 9:55 AM

Media studies graduates have a 93% employment rate, second only to medical graduates at 95%, although the salary is less than half the doctors salary.

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/mro/news-release/second-highest-work-rate-but-lowe...

Nor is it necessarily an easy subject http://www.theguardian.com/money/2010/apr/24/degree-media-studies

A survey in 2009 suggested 14.6% did not have jobs, but IT was worse, perhaps surprisingly. However "80% of them can't get a job" would still be a bit off the mark
http://www.journalism.co.uk/news/media-studies-graduates-face-second-highest-une...

Times Higher ran an interesting article in 2003 indicating good prospects, but also hinting why the subject has a bad rep, a lot to do with the bums on seats philosophy at some universities.

thewilliam
26 Feb 2014 - 10:05 AM


Quote: a 'soft' degree with little future like Media Studies which contribute nothing to the economy of the UK. Employers see the rationale with this, so its no surprise 80% of them cant get a job.

The various fields that fall under the category of "media" do contribute greatly to our economy and the UK is a world leader in many of these fields. The problem with a photography degree is just that 93% of the graduates don't find a long-term future within the industry. Most do indeed get jobs but rarely within the industry. Each year, the UK produces more photography graduates than there are registered professional photographers within the EU.

lobsterboy
lobsterboy Site Moderator 1014137 forum postslobsterboy vcard United Kingdom13 Constructive Critique Points
26 Feb 2014 - 10:13 AM


Quote: but IT was worse, perhaps surprisingly.

massive amounts of outsourcing t India would be my explanation for that one.

col_c
col_c  1 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 - 10:14 AM

have you sent them your cv ? Wink

Thanks, I am now happily retired from the Environment Agency thus avoiding the cuts of about 30% to its budgets and staff numbers.

col_c
col_c  1 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2014 - 10:49 AM

Paul Morgan said :

The winter of 2012 was one of the driest on record, this years its one of the wettest on record and I can`t see how this flooding could have been prevented.

I agree with you.

The recent rash of serious floods from about 2000 onwards raises the issue of climate chnage and, as a consequence, of flood return periods. This issue will also need to be considered by the government in its future flood defence strategy. If our winters really are getting wetter then the current flood defences, which were previously judged to be adequate, will all need to be improved to cope with the new conditions.

Fluvial (River) flood defences in the UK are built to defend against a 100 year return period flood event. Coastal defences are built to a 200 year return period. That means that statistically we should expect a river to flood once in 100 years on average.

But these return periods are derived from data collected in the past from river gauges. If the whole climate has shifted then the future will be different from the past and the past data will be of no use as a guide to determining return periods and flood defence levels.

Given the very uncertain state of our weather it is probably best to go for resilience rather than possibly inadequate flood defences. That means building houses so that they can survive flooding without much damage and using natural means such as forestation to extend the time and reduce the severity over which a flood happens.

Believe me, this is not a simple problem and no one solution, such as dredging, is the silver bullet. If the climate continues as it has over the least 15 years, or possibly continues to get even wetter, then we will need to use every trick in the book to make life bearable in flood-affected areas.

Is this weather the result of climate change due to global warming? No one can say for sure but the prediction is that the increased energy in the atmosphere will result in more storms and more extreme weather. What we have seen over the last 15 years certainly looks very much like that.

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