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The UK floods

Milder than a year ago (and my heating bill is lower as a result, which is nice), the UK winter has been associated with a long period of rain. Parts of the UK have suffered heavy flooding such as in the southwest, as in Somerset. The floods again raise the issue of what ought to be the way we deal with them. Absent any kind of powerful government, I guess one obvious response would be that insurance premia would reflect the risks of living in a flood plain, and so this would prompt responses such as people building homes in different ways – such as a modern form of “stilt,” maybe – and moving to higher ground, or encouraging some sort of collective, but voluntary effort to abate flooding risks, such as creating funds to pay to put levees on rivers, or dredge them regularly, etc.

We are where we are, however.  And if you think a government has certain very basic, narrow responsibilities, defence – one of the core functions – should perhaps include defence against certain types of natural catastrophe, albeit not an open-ended commitment; such a move should also incentivise local efforts, rather than prevent them. Which is where the UK Environment Agency’s recent behaviour comes in.

In the Spectator Coffee House blog, Charles Moore weighs in with an article that argues that much of the problem is that the EA has, over the past couple of decades or so, changed its approach to flood control to one where it seems to believe in benign neglect. It is possible to see a form of environmentalistic anti-modern civilisation mindset at work here. No more arrogant Victorian attempts to tame nature by dredging rivers, pumping out water systems and the like. And Moore cites the views of a recent head of the EA, which I think gets to the heart of the change:

The Environment Agency’s opposition to dredging is reported, but not explained. Poor Chris Smith, the current chairman, gurgles inarticulately as if the floods were closing over his head. The answer, as with so much in the management of the environment, is ideological. Especially under its former chief executive, Lady Young of Old Scone and New Labour (I have made only half of that title up), the EA has seen human activity as the enemy. Lady Young has been quoted in Parliament as saying that she would like to place limpet mines on all the old pumping stations to get rid of them. If people are the problem, you wonder why the EA employs more than 11,000 of them. Without human intervention, the Somerset Levels would become an inland sea. Perhaps that is what the EA wants.

I think maybe that it is what the EA wants, not that such an organisation could perhaps say so bluntly lest it provoke so much public anger that its staff would be sacked and leadership replaced.  But even if you don’t go in for conspiracy theories (and I don’t) you might wonder whether the ideological tilt of the EA fits with those who actually want such disasters not to be averted because it will be used as handy evidence of Man-made climate change. Pictures of vast floods across parts of the UK will, I can bet, be used by the alarmists to justify their arguments that Man is wrecking the climate and so we need yet more windmills and all the rest of it. Much easier to do that rather than go to the boring effort of dredging rivers and undertaking civil engineering projects to reduce the flooding risks in the first place.

Another thought that strikes me as if the EA really has taken some sort of policy switch and decided that old pumping stations should be destroyed or left idle, who exactly approved of this policy? Was there any public discussion of this? Who is, or should be, held accountable for it?

Meanwhile, here is an article by the founder of the Glastonbury Festival, who, I suspect, can see the commercially devastating impact of the EA’s position. And a similar call for change in the local media.

As Moore says, the EA has over 11,000 staff. It is about time that organisation began to become part of the solution of flooding risk, not an  active and foolish contributor towards it.

 

46 comments to The UK floods

  • bloke in spain

    Would have thought the EA played a blinder on this one. Don’t spend the money on dredging & keep it for greenery. If Somerset floods, blame it on Climate change & ask for more money for greenery. BBC’s leading with the CC card for them as I write, I gather.

  • Ljh

    The urban soft science graduates who people the EA have the romantic lefty narrative that nature is benign and any return to natural process, “good” in itself: ignoring of course that the landscape of Britania is man-made since stoneage. The flooding of the Somerset Levels has of course drowned all those small mammals and birds nests they were anxious to encourage at the expense of farming. Fuckwits!

  • This year’s drought in California is worse than usual due to the Left Coast lefties similar mindset.

    The Jihad against Dams is in full swing out West.

    Too much water in one place too little in another, all in the service of ‘The Great Search For More Political Power.’

    Where is Wittfogal when you need him ?

  • Mr Ed

    No more arrogant Victorian attempts to tame nature by dredging rivers, pumping out water systems and the like.

    Victorian? Nay, Sire, Carolian, as the career of the great Dutch engineer Sir Cornelius Vermuyden attests, and our sane regulars will no doubt relish this:

    his first projects were on the River Thames, repairing a sea wall at Dagenham and working to reclaim Canvey Island, Essex. The latter project was financed by Joas Croppenburg, a Dutch haberdasher to whom Vermuyden was related by marriage

    and the Sage of Kettering was no doubt aware of his ancestral cousins’ exploits, having removed his nose from a well-known and little read weekly magazine purporting to address matters praxeological.

    If the EA is blameless in all this, I’m a Dutchman.

  • S

    Despite common belief, dredging doesn’t do anything to stop flooding, which is why the EA rarely does it. That’s not ideological, it’s physics. I don’t know why people think dredging does anything for flooding, but it’s an obvious nonsense if one considers a cross-section across a channel and the flood plain; the proportion of that cross sectional area that would be dredged is very small (literally around 2-3%), and would account for a very small difference in flow capacity. It might make an inch of difference – at most – which is of no consolation if your home is flooded with 3 feet of water.

    Rivers can be managed – to a point – and there’s clearly a discussion to be had as to how well the EA does that. But that discussion should be based on scientific reasoning and engineering judgement, and the amount of commentators leaping on dredging as an obvious solution based on a flawed (or nonexistant!) understanding of fluid mechanics… well it just annoys me, to be honest.

  • CaptDMO

    Well, there’s the US way of handling flooding.
    Flood insurance id=s only available from the gub’mint.
    Buy a house on the coast for FAR too much money, but a hell of a view od a watery horizon, and social cachet for “oceanfront” property.
    When the inevitable flood vaporizes a goodly swath of coastal residences AGAIN, begin the months long fight with the gub’mint for cash to rebuild in EXACTLY the same spot.
    Demand that Federal Emergency funds be spent on rebuilding the coastalm infrastructure.
    Stand there, waiting for someone else to clear the debris, clean up the mess, provide water, fix the washing machine, AND pay the bank for the STILL outstanding loan payments on the NOW uninhabitable lot.
    No, of COURSE you can’t simply burn off the debris, clear the road, establish mutual temporary canteen/shelter, and start swingin’ a hammer, because…um…the gub’mint, EPA, “city” permits, union construction, building permit approvals, “health” licensing codes, electrical licensing codes, and otherwise “for your safety”.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Who is, or should be, held accountable for it?

    Would you care to borrow George Bush?

  • Laird Minor

    My only nit to pick with CaptDMO’s comment is that US flood insurance isn’t only for coastal areas, but for all areas in the country within the 100-year flood zone (which is determined by the government). So it includes properties built near rivers and even creeks, too. And since no private insurance company desiring to remain solvent would write those policies at the premiums the government dictates, naturally the whole scheme is government-owned (and subsidized). But there are actually some changes being made to the program as a consequence of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. They have already increased the premiums somewhat, and the plan is to increase them every year for 5 years until the premium represents something approaching an actuarially-justifiable number. Whether that will actually occur remains to be seen, of course, as people are already squawking about the increase we saw this year. But it is progress of a sort.

    Incidentally, it is not illegal to forgo flood insurance (and if you do FEMA may still send you a check if you’re flooded out), but it is illegal for a bank to take a mortgage on a property located in a flood zone without the insurance.

  • Mr Ed

    There is, of course, an EU Directive on dredging and a possibly conflicting one on waste materials, which allows dredging for river maintenance and exempts that dredging if the material dredged is non-toxic but it puts the burden of proof on the party seeking an exemption to show that the material dredged is non-toxic page 2. This piece might indicate that in each EU state the directives are implemented differently, and it may be that the UK’s Environment Agency is not dredging because it fears for the environmental impact of it, regardless of the impact on human lives.

    In such case any such bureaucrat so fearing might usefully have his or her rectum stitched closed to prevent faecal contamination of the environment.

  • Mr Ed

    Some analysis from John Redwood on the Environment Agency.

    This quango started life as the National Rivers Authority, and in the early 1990s it seemed to be constantly advertising for staff in the New Scientist.

  • llamas

    Much as Laird Minor predicted, there is in fact a massive effort underway in the Congress to roll back the Biggert/Waters legislation of 2012 – the beginnings of sensible reform to the Federal flood-insurance program he described – and return to the status-quo-ante, in which home-owners in flood-prone areas would continue to benefit from Federally-subsidized flood insurance at far-below market rates.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/29/us/politics/popular-flood-insurance-law-is-target-of-both-political-parties.html?_r=0

    So the previous system, where taxpayers in drought-stricken Texas and California subsidize the flood-insurance premiums of persons who built homes in areas known to be prone to flooding, and who have in some case already lost those homes to flooding one, sometimes even twice, and yet have had them rebuilt – that system looks set fair to be restored. Truly, democracy is a wonderful thing.

    llater,

    llamas

  • bloke in spain

    @S
    That’s not how the physics of fluid dynamics works. Any river is bounded by its banks, bed & surface. At the boundaries there’s turbulent flow & turbulent flow restricts water movement. The extent of the boundary region is much the same, irrespective of the depth of the river. The lower turbulence core flow passes more water. So dredging acts to directly increase the core flow. Conversely, allowing the watercourse to silt up proportionally increases the turbulent flow. Restricted enough, it’s all turbulent flow.

  • John B

    Battersea, Chelsea, Putney, Canvey, Hackney, etc. Lots of place names along or near the Thames with the ea or ey ending originate in the Saxon eye, for small island, for indeed most of the dry land around the Thames was once marshland drained by our ancestors and protected by diverting rivers, land drainage, building up the banks of the Thames, raising the parapets along the Embankment in Victorian times as well as the Thames flood barriers completed in the 1970s all before the hysteria of Manmade Global Whatever. The Strand… Saxon for beach, once was lapped by Thames water: now high and dry.

    Much of Central London is a flood risk, the Thames Basin being at or below sea level.

    It would be interesting to see the reaction if the Environment Agency’s lackadaisical and the Green loonies’ ‘back to nature’ policies were applied to the metropolis not just the habitats of country yokels, who after all, have only themselves to blame for living in a flood risk area.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Thanks, bloke-in-spain; I was about to start wittering on about the Poiseuille formula..

    Of course dredging rivers doesn’t prevent flooding, S, nobody said it did, classic strawman.

    What dredging does to, is enable the flood water to be removed more quickly, so your land will be covered for days, not months, or may even never be inundated at all.

    A careful reading of the vapourings of Geoffrey Lean (yes, I know, but it has to be done sometimes) reveals that this is indeed a manifestation of Global Warming Alarmism. The argument, if I may so dignify it, seems to be that since Gorbal Worming will inevitably cause sea-level to rise by fifty yards in the next decade (I paraphrase), there’s no point in trying to stop it, we might as well all retreat to the high ground.

  • llamas

    @S, who wrote:

    ‘Despite common belief, dredging doesn’t do anything to stop flooding, which is why the EA rarely does it. That’s not ideological, it’s physics. I don’t know why people think dredging does anything for flooding, but it’s an obvious nonsense if one considers a cross-section across a channel and the flood plain; the proportion of that cross sectional area that would be dredged is very small (literally around 2-3%), and would account for a very small difference in flow capacity. It might make an inch of difference – at most – which is of no consolation if your home is flooded with 3 feet of water.’

    This is a wildly-simplistic generalization, which assumes that the flow capacities of cross-sectional areas of flood plains vs drainage channels are identical.

    But this is often not the case, as for example, when a flood plain is mostly-enclosed at a higher elevation than its final drainage, and the only way to remove water is via a river or drain. Dredging that river or drain will self-evidently increase the flow out of the flood plain and prevent or mitigate flooding.

    That’s why any serious drainage system, whether powered by simple gravity or assisted by pumping, always includes major amendments to the drainage channels, by widening and/or dredging and/or delimiting, to increase flow volume and /or velocity, as required.

    The blanket statement that ‘dredging doesn’t do anything to stop flooding’ is wildly-simplistic and mostly-untrue. It depends on the geography of the area and the source of the flooding. Any successful flood-defence system invariably includes engineered drainage channels, and they must be kept to the engineered depth, by dredging, to maintain the engineered flow volume and velocity and remain effective.

    llater,

    llamas

  • staghounds

    Where can you bet? I’d like to be in on that sure thing…

  • staghounds

    Don’t worry Llamas, the taxpayers who built homes in areas known to be prone to flooding will continue to subsisise the farmers in drought-stricken Texas and California.

    And Government gets its cut off the top both ways. Everyone wins!

  • I visited Bayonne in SW France at the weekend during the worst floods in a while, and noticed that the ground floor of each building by the river had originally been open archways with the first liveable floor above. Then some bright spark came along a few hundred years later and put cafes and shops in the archways, which are now being flooded. It’s the same thing we see in England where some developer can’t see quite why that nice open flat area on the edge of town never got built on in the last 1,000 years.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ed is correct – Somerset was drained by Dutchmen back in the 17th century.

    Simon Heffer is fond of speaking about the subject (his Dutch ancestors drained areas of Cambridgeshire).

    The problem with Somerset is that due to such things as the tidal Seven River (the largest river in the United Kingdom) the “rivers” (really canals) of Somerset have to be dredged regularly.

    The “Environment Agency” prefers flapping about on “Eco Projects” and blaming everything on “Climate Change” to actually doing the basic work.

    The solution is simple.

    Sell the “rivers” (which are artificial anyway) and allow private owners to do the work and keep the profits.

  • george

    “sell the rivers” ???

    who would pay to have them dredged?

    the tax payer?

    why should money be taken from me by force for the benefit of those who live in somerset???

    I don’t even like somerset or the people that live there!

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    “sell the rivers” ???

    who would pay to have them dredged?

    the tax payer?

    why should money be taken from me by force for the benefit of those who live in somerset???

    I don’t even like somerset or the people that live there!

    The people of Somerset? There’s no reason the solution needs to involve coercion.

    “I own this river. It will cost me £500,000 a year to keep it dredged. If you folks who live along it club together and pay me £550,000 a year, I promise to keep it dredged. If not, I’ll let it silt up and in 10 years or so, you’ll suffer a real bugger of a flood. Your choice.”

    Seems like a nice little earner to me.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Jaded Voluntaryist
    February 3, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    “I own this river. It will cost me £500,000 a year to keep it dredged. If you folks who live along it club together and pay me £550,000 a year, I promise to keep it dredged. If not, I’ll let it silt up and in 10 years or so, you’ll suffer a real bugger of a flood. Your choice.”

    Seems like a nice little earner to me.

    Uh-huh. If you’re a lawyer.

  • Mr Ed

    George

    “sell the rivers” ???

    who would pay to have them dredged?

    Well the answer to that is 1. People pay the State’s agency their drainage rates and taxes, yet the canals are not dredged despite them ‘paying’ for it, so it cannot be any worse than the current situation.

    2. Many of Sir Cornelius Vermuyden’s schemes were privately financed. If a man born in 1595 was able to work out how to drain land and finance it what was a foreign country, what have we discovered in the four centuries and more since his birth that has made it impossible for private financing to work in this area? Clue: Large tracts of swamp bought then drained can be sold off in parcels, and a covenant imposed to pay might be imposed on the drained land’s subsequent owners that the owner shall pay a fee for drainage. Then you have a contract with enforceable terms, there is no reason why that could not work.

    There is a problem from where we are now, to unravel greater statism, there may be a need for the imposition of a form of covenant, but that is a feature of statism, not private ownership.

    I do wonder if the hostility to the maintenance of the Somerset Levels on the part of the Environment Agency is motivated in part by a malevolent hatred of traditional England found in some Socialists, just as parts of East Anglia have been abandoned. Can anyone allay my concerns?

  • Stuck-Record

    I suspect that the environment agency’s twenty year commitment to return our rivers and flood areas to their natural marshy state isn’t entirely to do with their ideological allegiance to the old-fashioned environmentalism of looking after the birds and bees.

    My suspicion would be that they drank the Kool-Aid of climate change alarmism, and were absolutely convinced that heavy rainfall, high water flow and floods were a thing of the past. After all, the hysterical alarmist gospel (until very recently) was that due to global warming/climate change/climate disruption the future would be hotter and drier.

    So why would they spend money to prevent something happening they were utterly convinced was a thing of the past?

    Idiots.

    This could be the very first instance of a potentially actionable consequence of climate change legislation. People have lost their homes and livelihoods because of this insane religious belief system.

    I hope someone sues.

    Somewhere, there will be a paper trail.

  • llamas

    Just a minor correction – the Somerset Levels were not ‘drained’ by Dutchmen so much as they were protected from flooding. Large areas of the Levels remain as wetlands to this day, and the areas of land reclaimed (drained) to date have actually been quite small. What Vermuijden and his successors primarily did was flood defence against sea-water coming up the various rivers, and defences against flooding from rivers that overtopped their banks. This they did by a combination of embankments and enclosures, somewhat in the polder style, but without much of the usual serious pumping or draining. Controlled flooding (to replenish enclosed areas with river silt) was actually a specific feature of the hydrography of the Levels, I don’t know whether this is still done.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Johnathan Pearce

    S writes:

    Despite common belief, dredging doesn’t do anything to stop flooding, which is why the EA rarely does it.

    Several other people have been unimpressed by this argument, as I am. Even if you are not an expert, making a river deeper means more stuff can flow through it, other things being equal, than before. That being the case, when there is a large build-up of water in a system, the run-off can run off, so to speak, much faster. And as another person has said, it may not prevent flooding – there are a variety of factors at work – but dredging, when allied to other civil engineering/measures can increase the speed with which water moves away.

    The more I read about this, the more convinced I am that there is a strong whiff of reactionary Green ideology in how and why the EA has acted in the past. Now people have started to notice, and not just those who have seen their homes and businesses hit by this.

  • S

    @ bloke in spain:
    I think you miss the point. When the flow into a particular control volume exceeds the flow out of it, water is stored within that volume. Flooding (when it occurs to a depth significant enough to cause problems) is caused by the inflow being significantly higher than the outflow. Dredging clearly does change the capacity of the channel (by “capacity” i mean storage capacity, in this instance), but the increased storage capacity is magnitudes lower than the volume of water “stored” out of banks during a flood.

    @ Andrew Duffin:
    Yes, lots of people *have* made the argument that “if the rivers were dredged, there wouldn’t be flooding”. I understand where you’re coming from, but I’d say even that is erroneous. Dredging a river won’t really help any flood water “get away quicker”. What dredging *does* do, is marginally help with land drainage in “normal” (i.e. non-flood) times. Which is why farmers want all the rivers dredged, because it means their fields dry a little bit quicker when it rains.

    @ llamas:
    “any successful flood-defence system invariably includes engineered drainage channels, and they must be kept to the engineered depth, by dredging”
    IMHO, if an engineered drainage channel needs to be routinely dredged, it’s been very badly engineered and is therefore not successful…

    @ Jonathan Pierce:
    “Even if you are not an expert, making a river deeper means more stuff can flow through it, other things being equal, than before”
    Yeah, to an extent (see reply to bloke in spain). But the increased capacity is significantly lower than it’d need to be to have a meaningful difference. FWIW, I’m a civil engineer who works on flooding problems, and I know of no-one within the industry who thinks that dredging is a workable solution.

    Dredging does slightly increase the ability of a channel to convey flow (i.e. the same flow for a lower water depth) – in the short term. However not by much; silt deposition occurs in regions where the water velocity is low, therefore parts of the river channel which routinely get silted up do not pass that much flow (maybe upto about 10% of the flow through the cross-sectional area. Which isn’t nothing, but it’s not enough to stop a flood or make a sizeable difference). There’s no point removing silt from those areas, unless you also change the conditions which caused the deposition in the first place. Those are not always trivial solutions, or particularly proportionate to the problem.

  • bloke in spain

    @S
    In practise, the behaviour of river systems is a lot more complicated than you’re describing. The amount of over capacity that’ll cause a river to flood past its banks is very small. It’s much to do with the fluid dynamics described above. Shallow flooded ground drains very slowly because it’s high turbulent flow. So the water backs up over a greater & greater area. Once saw a remarkable example of this on an Essex hill side after a particularly violent cloudburst. A lake several inches deep, covering a pronounced slope, which persisted for a considerable time. The water was unable to run off through the grass & just built up
    Because it’s a positive feedback situation, even minor increases in the river flow rate can greatly reduce the area flooded. And that faster flow will be carrying silt away more effectively, preventing it settling out in slacks & hampering the channel. Because, of course, flooded land contributes an enormous amount of silt to the watercourse as it drains.

  • bloke in spain

    @S
    Just been checking with my old home in Flanders. That’s seriously flat. Much of it is drained land. Makes Holland look mountainous. We’ve got around a meter slope from one horizon to the other. The whole place is crossed with drainage ditches (in excellent repair)& the Lys runs right by Lille. It’s been pissing down there, as well. I’m told the dogs are muddy but life’s as normal.
    There was a bit of a flood scare back in November with the highest tide in decades. 6m33. Usual precautions taken but no problems.

  • bloke in spain

    Don’t think I’ve ever lived in a country more inclined to do nothing & hope than the UK. The Spanish are a bit on the gormless side but this town’s got flood channels through it 50m wide & 3m deep. After a couple days of rain there’s half an inch trickling down the middle. Rest of the year the kids use it for bike races. They are there because we’ve mountains behind & if we get a gota fria we could have 1/2 meter rain in 10 minutes. Might happen once in 20 years.
    UK? Can remember a few winters back. Snowfall in the evening partially thawed then froze. Pavements outside my London flat were a sheet of black ice you couldn’t stand up on. There’s plastic sand boxes at the end of the road. Empty, of course. But there’s a council street-sweeper, with his broom & barrow, trying to prize discarded fag packets out of the ice. Charlie Chaplin couldn’t have bettered it.
    You pay for these services. They use the money for something else. Then find excuses when they drop you in the shit Like S above. We’re not interested whether you think it’s correct to dredge the rivers. They’ve been paid to dredge the rivers & haven’t. Hanging’s too good for them.

  • Gareth

    S,

    Would restoring the capacity of the water courses reduce the risk of heavy rainfall falling on already saturated land?

    Stuck-Record said:

    My suspicion would be that they drank the Kool-Aid of climate change alarmism, and were absolutely convinced that heavy rainfall, high water flow and floods were a thing of the past. After all, the hysterical alarmist gospel (until very recently) was that due to global warming/climate change/climate disruption the future would be hotter and drier.

    The Kool-Aid drinkers are convinced that with milder winters we will get lots of rain rather than snow, so the aim for that area is to allow some farmland to flood every winter in order to protect settlements. Due to further Kool-Aid consumption they are also convinced that there will be water shortages so artificially raise river levels by not opening sluice gates at the appropriate times.

    The drainage system there is, I think, supposed to be managed as a source of irrigation water in the summer and a store of floodwater in the winter. I wouldn’t be surprised if the flooding is a result of two things: a lack of maintenance reducing the capacity of the rivers and thereby reducing the amount of flood water that could be stored in them, and not adequately draining the system via sluice gates before winter rains arrived.

    Short form climate alarmism is “Whatever weather you don’t want, you’ll get more of”. For the Somerset Levels they have planned for climate change to make winter flooding worse via increased winter rain. That area was selected as a test bed for a 50 year plan to adapt to climate change. http://www.catchmentfutures.org.uk/index.htm

  • Mr Ed

    Just a slight correction to S R

    My suspicion would be that they drank the Kool-Aid of climate change alarmism

    They want us to be made to drink the Kool-Aid.

    The Peoples’ Temple crowd were dedicated Marxists, to quote Jim Jones:

    I decided, how can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, infiltrate the church. So I consciously made a decision to look into that prospect.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Smith is an urbanite through and through, a Soho boulevardier. He neither understands nor cares about the countryside – besides they don’t vote Labour down there. He was given his sinecure by his crony,the arch lunatic Brown but what is difficult to understand is that the coalition renewed his contract in 2011. Which idiot was responsible for that?

  • Mr Ed

    TLC, the sort of idiots who talk of making ‘cuts’ whilst increasing spending all the time?

  • george

    bloke in spain “They’ve been paid to dredge the rivers & haven’t. Hanging’s too good for them.”

    but that’s not how it works is it. They view themselves as our managers. There is no mechanism for the people to say we want this river dredged now go and dredge it.

    why are we treated with such contempt in this country, is it because our ruling class was completely seperated from the people by the norman invasion or just because we’ve never broken out the guillotines.

  • Mr Ed

    George, King Charles I might quibble with your supposition on the basis that the method hardly matters, and he might have said ‘What is a guillotine?’. (A device of those wishing more government and to kill without restraint).

    It is the way that statism works, the people are to be herded, taxed, fleeced and culled, and should be grateful for that.

  • S

    @ bloke in spain:

    “They’ve been paid to dredge the rivers & haven’t”

    That hasn’t been true for 30 years. They’re paid to reduce flood risk; dredging doesn’t, hence why it’s not done.

    @ george:

    “There is no mechanism for the people to say we want this river dredged now go and dredge it.”

    Of course there is: IDBs. Or do it yourself, either individually or form a collective. Would’ve thought that’d go down well here; why should someone who will benefit from very localised short term drainage improvements force all other taxpayers to pay for it?

  • Mr Ed

    S. The locals are taxed with Drainage Rates, which are not, it seems, spent on providing drainage. George’s point seems to me to be that they are taxed, and get nowt done for their money, not that others should also be taxed.

    And if you dredge without a permit, you may be prosecuted.

    http://www.somersetdrainageboards.gov.uk/finance-rates/drainage-rates/

  • bloke in spain

    @S
    In view of your comments, you might find this photo astounding.

    http://www.google.es/imgres?biw=1138&bih=523&tbm=isch&tbnid=otwagSLQa0jwxM%3A&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fbordabord.org%2Fnews%2Fla-lys-aura-un-lit-propre-avant-la-fin-de-l-hiver&docid=vqxc8gdDL5bLiM&imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fbordabord.org%2Fimages%2F100_6586_t.800.jpg&w=800&h=533&ei=QiHyUuuED4Kx0QXk8YGgCg&zoom=1&ved=0CFgQhBwwAQ&iact=rc&dur=3621&page=1&start=0&ndsp=9

    It’s dredging on the River Lys at Merville in Département Nord, France. Which is, of course, draining the area I lived. Where, despite being on a flood plain, we don’t have floods. This is what you’re telling us isn’t done.

  • llamas

    Just to drive a stake through the heart of the ridiculous assertion that ‘dredging doesn’t prevent flooding’ -

    - Who knows the most in the world about preventing river flooding – bar none? Answer – the Dutch.

    What is the most-ambitious plan in the Western hemisphere to date to mitigate the effects of river flooding? Answer – the Dutch plan known as ‘Ruimte voor de Rivier’, which translates to ‘Room for the River’. This ambitious plan seeks to mitigate the effects of flooding of the 4 major rivers which run through the Netherlands.

    What is a key part of this plan? Answer – dredging. See, for example, this highly-simplified description

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_for_the_River_(Netherlands)

    and note the continual references to ‘creating . . . . and increasing the depth of the flood channels’ ‘side channels . . . will be lowered in depth’ and so forth. The English word for all this type of activity is – ‘ dredging’.

    But if dredging rivers doesn’t prevent flooding – why is massive dredging a central part of the largest river-flooding-control plan currently being put into effect, by the world’s leading experts on the subject?

    Why would it be, do you suppose, that 4 of the 5 largest dredging companies in the world are headquartered either in the Netherlands or in Flemish Belgium? Purely a coincidence, I’m sure.

    I think what happened in the UK is that the watermelon Guardianistas in charge looked at the kinds of plans that are typified by the ‘Room for the River’ plan. And a large part of that plan – apart from the massive dredging works, that is – involves fairly-major changes to the population. Lots of people in the Netherlands are having to move their homes, or change the ways they use their land, or put up with serious changes and impositions on their way of life. And that’s what they latched on to – Look, the Dutch are letting the river run wherever it wants, and people are having to move out of the way!

    This sort of thing, of course, is like mother’s milk to the statist clowns who prevail at these sorts of agencies. Add in generous dashes of climate-change mythology and Gaia-worship, and it is but a short step to a mindset that says We’ll let the river run free! and if it floods people’s houses, well, that’s just too bad.

    The Dutch plan is to give the river some room, but decide where to stop it. In other words, the people control the river. The UK version is to let the river go wherever the hell it likes – let the river control the people. That’s what nurtures ideas like ‘well, dredging doesn’t prevent flooding.’

    llater,

    llamas

  • bloke in spain

    I seem to remember the Dutch have continual programs of river deepening. Drained land compacts over time & the dyked rivers end up higher than the surrounding polder. Meaning all surplus rainfall has to pumped, rather than flow away. Presumably more effective to lower the rivers.
    It’s probably what should be happening with the levels. They’ve been there long enough. But civil servants prefer to draft regulations requiring it to flow uphill.

  • S

    @bloke in spain:
    Here’s a video report from 2012, when Merville was flooded by the Lys: http://uk.screen.yahoo.com/floods-northern-frances-nord-pas-162748719.html

    Impressive for a place that “doesn’t flood”

    @llamas:
    Who says the Dutch are the experts in fluvial flooding? That’s a very odd statement.

    Anyway. What that refers to is increasing the capacity of side-channels which were created for the purpose of storing volumes of flood water. Which is *completely* different conceptually to dredging the main river channel. The Dutch plan is about storing more water on the floodplain, in areas where they think it’ll do the least damage.

  • bloke in spain

    @S
    I know that road. It’s on the way from Hazebrouck to Merville & the river there isn’t the Lys it’s the Bourre. A smaller tributary, runs very much unmanaged in its own bed, at that point. That land floods every winter. Always has. I try & stay away from the northern winters so wouldn’t have been around there for winter 2012 But flooding wasn’t a topic of conversation in the village a couple miles north. That’s home, for me. Merville certainly wasn’t “cut off by flooding” á la Somerset. The drain part of the Bourre, just east of Hazebrouk worked normally & the river stayed within its banks at Motte au Bois in the le Foret de Nieppe.

  • bloke in spain

    Incidentally, this whole Somerset thing is typically Brit. I know my French & if they found the people supposed to be preventing this had pissed the money on bird sanctuaries they’d be hanging in nooses from Lille’s carillion. And the mayors of the communes would be passing out the rope. Any excuses about environmental departments in Paris would be reason for more rope.

  • george

    how were the levels drained in the first place?

    by digging drainage channels?

    what happens if these drainage channels are allowed to clog up and are no longer able to carry the volume of water required to drain the land?

    i find many elements of green ideology appealing but the willingness to lie and contempt for the intelligence of the people of “the party” and the professional greens strikes me as very similar to the upper middle class “socialists” whose real agenda seems to be their own class interests.

    anti grammar school, pro immigration, anti house building, avoidance of discussion of money supply etc

  • S

    Saw this earlier, and it reminded me of this thread:

    “To reduce significantly the peak water levels one needs to increase the hydraulic gradient, i.e. the water surface slope, and thereby increase the flow from the marshes to the sea. This will not be significantly achieved by dredging. What dredging will do is to increase the area of flow, which will marginally increase the flow over the short term.”

    Sounds like a familiar argument…

    The science here is fairly well understood, and there’s little point in dredging rivers for flood risk. IMO, the more interesting observation here is not that rivers weren’t dredged, it’s that politicians are now meddling in a subject that they little understand in order to gain support in a key location running up to next year’s election. Dredging is supported by farmers because it (marginally) helps land drainage, and if the EA dredges rivers it means farmers don’t have to spend as much draining their land themselves. Somerset is a key marginal seat, the Tories are trying to win favour with the farmer’s unions by appearing to be on their side. They’re electioneering, pure and simple.

    Put politicians in charge of something, and they’ll play politics with it even if their proposals are at odds with evidence, expert opinion and common sense. That seems like an important lesson.