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Work is well underway on the second phase of Ouse Washes flood defence scheme

Work is well underway on the second phase of the £27 million Ouse Washes flood defence scheme.

This £27 million project involves raising the Middle Level Barrier Bank from Earith to the Welmore Lake Sluice just past Welney, and will take four summers to complete. The works will see the bank raised from between 600mm and 800mm - depending on the section - along its 30km length.

The flood bank is the dam of the flood storage reservoir, the area of the Ouse Washes which is deliberately flooded. When full the reservoir stores approximately 90,000,000 cubic metres of water - enough water to fill Wembley Stadium 22 times. The reservoir protects thousands of properties, roads, railways and more than 67,000 hectares of farmland from winter flooding.

So far, the team has raised 8km of embankment and built 70 meters of reinforced concrete flood wall.

Tim Honeyball, Sub Agent said: “The scheme is now in its second season of four, and we are ahead of schedule on this year’s programme. Working close to the Ouse Washes SSSI has meant a lot of collaboration with the EA, RSPB and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. The washes provide a habitat for over wintering birds, and both the RSPB and WWT have bird reserves on the washes which attract a considerable number of visitors each year.

Not only are we constrained with seasonal works, but the embankment is also between two watercourses with just the embankment, a 3.5m haul road and a raised bank separating the two. Logistically this makes it a complex project which has required haul road enabling works such as widening for passing places and installation of 2 bridges to provide direct access from the quarries, as well as replacing the 24m bridge at Welches Dam.”

As the Washes are an internationally-important habitat, we’ll be leaving site in the autumn to avoid disturbing breeding and over-wintering birds, but will return for the third phase of summer works in July 2019 where there will be a further year of maintenance works to establish a good grass cover which is important to ensure the stability of the banks.

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