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£27m Ouse Washes scheme begins

Jackson recently began the first phase of a £27 million flood defence scheme to improve the entire length of the Ouse Washes flood bank for the Environment Agency.

The project will raise the Middle Level Barrier Bank from Earith to the Welmore Lake Sluice just past Welney, and will take three 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.

The first year of works will take place between Welney and Mepal on the Middle Level Barrier Bank and between Sutton Gault and Chain Corner on the South Level Barrier Bank. This work will be carried out in conjunction with the project at Welmore sluice to refurbish the new doors. The sluice is at the end of the Delph River, at the most northerly and downstream part of the floodwater storage area. It is the only means of discharging flood water from the Washes into the tidal Hundred Foot/New Bedford River.

As the Washes are an internationally-important habitat, the work will take place in the summer and early autumn to avoid disturbing breeding and over-wintering birds. Following construction works there will be a further two years of maintenance works to establish a good grass cover which is important to ensure the stability of the banks.