Diggers move in to raise flood banks

Mick George has started work on raising the banks on the Ouse Washes reservoir.
Mick George has started work on raising the banks on the Ouse Washes reservoir.

Work has started on the first phase of a £27 million project by the Environment Agency to improve the flood banks at the Ouse Washes reservoir.

The £10.5 million earthworks contracted was awarded to Mick George who has subcontracted to JacksonHyder and work is now underway on the first stretch from Welney to Mepal.

It is anticipated this will take three years to complete as work needs to be carried out at times of the year when nesting birds will not be disturbed as the area is considered an internationally important habitat with the location identified of particular conservation interest.

The project is the result on a recent inspection under the Reservoirs Act 1975, when recommendations for Matteris in the Interests of Safety were made.

Originally constructed during the 1630’s as part of the drainage of the Fens, the embankments have been repeatedly modified and repaired, until major works were last undertaken between 1990 and 1996 to raise and formalise the banks’ with imported, locally sourced materials.

The project is primarily concerned with raising the height of the Middle Level Barrier Bank between 60cm and 80cm right along the 30km embankment stretch, from Earith to Welmore Lake Sluice, Salters Lode. Mick George Ltd will for the main part act as a major supplier of the clay materials, as well as completing the formation of the banks.

The first year of works will concentrate on areas through Welney and Mepal, on the Middle Level Barrier Bank and between Sutton Gault and Chain Corner on the South Level Barrier Bank. There will be a further two years of maintenance works to establish good grass cover to ensure the bank’s stability.

The flood bank is the dam of the flood storage reservoir, the area of the Ouse Washes which is deliberately flooded.

The reservoir can store around 90,000,000m3 of water, enough water to fill Wembley Stadium 22 times over. It protects 1,000s of homes. and 67,000 hectares of farmland from winter flooding.