Sandbagging in Somerset

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In the absence of being able to do anything useful the Government has held multiple COBRA meeting and no doubt come up with the cunning plan of deploying the armed forces, filed under ‘something must be done’

Under the headline ‘Royal Marines Deploy to Flood Hit Somerset’ the MoD has responded by supplying a small group of Royal Marines as unskilled general labour to drop in a handful of sand bags. A job that could have been done by almost anyone.

At best, this is pure tokenism, at worse, taking advantage of the armed forces and using them as a fig leaf for political and practical inaction on the part of others.

Personally I find it rather shabby although fair play to those involved, no doubt doing the job they have been asked to do with good cheer.

Love the fishing for compliments piece at the end of the video though, the RN PR machine will be swinging into action as we speak, expect a Twitterbook onslaught :)

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See an earlier piece on the Somerset Floods and MoD response options

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2014/01/dear-people-somerset/”]

 

 

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DavidNiven
DavidNiven

99.9% Need not apply.

Derek
Derek

Either do it properly, as the US does when the national guard gets used for internal crisis support, or don’t bother.

It is impressive that the response to the Devon/Cornwall/Somerset floods has been so incompetent that even the staple “send in the Army!!!” response appears to have been fumbled and is left looking tokenistic.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

You know we are a bunch of snide gits on here. TD likes to belittle at every opportunity and to derek I only have one word. Katrina.

Those guys are there helping and I bet the Villagers are glad they are.

WiseApe

Oh, you mean sandbagging in the literal sense – I thought there was some form of gamesmanship afoot in Somerset.

Is the army busy? I see the head of the Environment Agency is to pay a visit. What’s that phrase….”Better late than never?”…..No that’s not it…..”What an arsehole!”…..Yes, that’s the one.

Phil

This is where I say to all those people who argued the armed forces have a general role in civil contingencies: I TOLD YOU SO.

I told you the authorities would reach for the hammer and hit the “break glass in case something must be done” alarm no matter how little the armed forces could actually add to a situation.

The armed forces should not be navvies because someone in Whitehall is pounding their desk with their fist and flapping like ten men over a massive PR disaster.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

Is it time for something like the Italian Department of Civil Protection?

http://www.protezionecivile.gov.it/jcms/en/dipartimento.wp;jsessionid=C9079D659DDC81E2BB9E4DCA9DE55CF8

Derek
Derek

APATS,

The word you were looking for was actually “whataboutery”

Phil,

To be fair, if you are one of the people whoe plight has been ignored for six weeks it’s slightly more than a PR disaster.

Phil

It’s a PR disaster for the government.

Derek
Derek

Phil,

Agreed

Brian Black
Brian Black

I see the Navy doesn’t have a spare frigate to send into Somerset.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

Better than nothing, but I do largely agree the sentiments above that the services always get called in as political fig leaves.

Still, I had a fun 3 weeks as OC of a fire truck – the old Green Goddess – during a firemen’s strike in 1983. We didn’t actually get called out to a proper fire, only did lots of training. And waiting.

TD, lay you a pint of beer that the Andrew PR wonks are going to contrive some stupid photo op around this on valentine’s Day, something like Miss Somerset awarding some strapping booty a kiss as he sandbags her bedroom…..

dave haine
dave haine

The villagers are indeed glad for any help, but 40 blokes, even working as hard as they did!, is not enough, most of the villages around have sent parties to help, yes even mine, and some farmers came over from gloucestershire and wiltshire, to help get the livestock out. Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue service have sent blokes and equipment. But thats it….

It’s very hard, here in Somerset, to shake off the feeling that we’ve been abandoned. According to my local councillor, all thats coming out from the government, is nonsensical advice, questionnaires and rather vague promises of money.
Most of which, the EA believe is due to them, so they can dredge 8km of the Tone and Parrett. Bear in mind the tone is 39km, the Parrett is 59km long and is tidal for 27km. The Tone, Isle and Yeo rivers all feed into the Parrett. No mention of any dredging for the North, South & Kings Sedgemoor drains, or indeed for the Hunstpill, or any of the other rhynes, cuts drains or rivers that provide an outflow for the levels.

It’s a good job Chris smith didn’t tell anyone were he was going today…I suspect the police would have had a hard time dealing with the ‘forthrightness’. Mind you it’s going to be an interesting time in whitehall for him, with what the local MPs are saying about him.

Simon257
Simon257

Listening last night to a farmer who’s parents had been flooded out, and was on the verge of being flooded out himself. He was asked what was needed, he replied he appreciated the help the Royal Marines were giving, but what was really needed was someone from the Armed Forces to come and take command of the entire situation, as all the agencies involved, although doing sterling work, their was no one in charge coordinating all the different agencies.

The Labour government were just as clueless during the Foot & Mouth Outbreak in 2001. Until they put Brigadier Birtwistle in charge. Who got a grip on the situation. That is what is needed now and should have happened a few weeks ago!

If we were to suffer a real catastrophe, like the Tsunami that hit the Bristol Channel in 1607. I doubt if the Government could cope.

TD, maybe it’s time to have a discussion on Civil Defence and do we need a UK version of FEMA?

http://www.fema.gov

bigdave243
bigdave243

It’s with headlines like these I know I went into the right AFCO.

*ducks*

Phil

TD, maybe it’s time to have a discussion on Civil Defence and do we need a UK version of FEMA?

And duplicate what can be done already?

There’s a classic dichotomy in risk management between prevention and resilience. FEMA is only one part of that dichotomy – resilience.

The problem is not kit or organisational structure – it’s co-ordination and not working properly on a joint flood strategy.

Also people need to get it out of their minds that communities are helpless without government intervention. There’s plenty communities can do and should have done themselves to improve resilience. Community resilience has been shown to be surprisingly effective.

Take a good flood management plan (and there is one), implement it well across agencies to help prevent flooding, add a good dose of community resilience planning and then implement the resilience aspect of the plan across agencies well.

A FEMA will just add another layer of bureaucracy and take away funding and kit from agencies that need it and which respond to events that are below the threshold for FEMA involvement.

We need to take what we have and co-ordinate and think properly.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

@ DH / Simon 257,

Always good to hear support for the people of Somerset, a county I know well and one in which I have good muckers and relatives in. One has had his dairy flooded twice either side of Christmas, the other sent his cattle to his brother in North Devon on higher ground.

But there’s costs, beyond flood damage. Sure, insurance will pay for damaged milking equipment (no chance of the FSB signing off on cleaned equipment when the milk is for human consumption), but insurance won’t pay the costs of time lag while new dairy equipment is ordered (9 week delay), nor for the reduced yields in heifers not milked for 9 weeks, nor for the nearly £9,000 haulier’s charge for transporting 500 head of cattle from Curry Rivel to near Barnstaple. Nor for the shock of movement for milk heifers (bloody prima donnas at the best of times) and the increased miscarriage rate of having to share pasture on exposed hilltops with rufty tufty Devonian beef cattle who have a winter coat.

Observer
Observer

About Civil Defence, there is also the question of how you want them trained. Disasters can be pretty varied, from earthquakes to floods to typhoons/tornados to building collapses to fires etc, and every different scenario has a different optimum solution. It’s impractical to train people to do everything as there is too many ways something can go belly up. It’s going to be ironic if you trained in flood control only to have the next disaster be an earthquake (touch wood). The best I can see as “civil defence” is probably HADR training and emergency stores stockpiling, clearing land to feed and house displaced people, but damage repair and rectification is beyond most civil defence.

And I’ve to echo Phil on community resilience, in the end, it’s all up to them, at least once you help pull the rubble off them.

dave haine
dave haine

@ Phil

TBH, a FEMA isn’t the answer anyway. The root cause of the problem was the failure of a government agency to properly maintain the drainage system, or indeed have proper mitigation procedures. Community resilience happens every day in the country, we help each other out.
However, there is a point at which a community needs help, and it should be able to ask for it- which the council did…three weeks ago.

There was no help forthcoming until CmD decided to ‘take charge’… Then all of a sudden, an unco-ordinated, incoherent response, which has achieved very little.

To us, in the country, it seems like we have a government that is not really concerned about rural communities. How many rural regeneration programmes have you heard of? Plenty of urban ones, though. We still pay the same taxes and community charges, in fact slightly more. But we rarely get the same infrastructure spend, or indeed, service.

Phil

Phil, not sure I would agree that there is a lack of coordination, I veer towards the problem of too much coordination because our organisational constructs are so small we have a myriad of groups that do nothing but coordinate, the lack of scale means that coordination is overbearing and nudges out other more useful activity

I meant at a more (forgive me) strategic level. Policy level if you will. Not at the response level. If the EA wants to adopt a particular policy then there needs to be some sort of mechanism that wags the dog of other agencies. EA are an oft overlooked agency I think (as opposed to F&R, Police, NHS, CGuard etc) but its policies, as we might be seeing here, have systemic repurcussions. If the EA want to re-wild an area for example, or whatever they get up to then there needs to be a corresponding flex in the local resilience context. An actual physical change or increase in resources.

colky7
colky7

Why didn’t any bright spark think of claiming every person claiming benefits in the area (excluding ESA) turn up to labour or have their payments frozen?
I guess at the last minute it would undoable and you’d need to change laws etc but surely its something to have in place for next time. I’ve always believed anyone claiming – longterm that is as many have just lost their job and are genuinely trying to get back to work – should be prepared to work like this if needed. You could even increase the amount they get for that week to reflect their contribution, then all would benefit.
I guess administering it would be hard and in practice separating those who’re honest and just in need of temporary support form the wasters is very hard. But surely its worth looking at as these sort of events seem to occur every year at the moment? Especially with our forces being so small in number and as the OP says in this (and many instances) its often unskilled labour….

Phil

The root cause of the problem was the failure of a government agency to properly maintain the drainage system

Sorry mate but the distal root cause is people living and working on a major flood plain.

steve taylor
steve taylor

Phil said “I told you the authorities would reach for the hammer and hit the “break glass in case something must be done” alarm no matter how little the armed forces could actually add to a situation.”

I agree with your general thrust of what you say. But as an aside I was once told here that armed forces’ role wasn’t as I thought which was to take violence to the enemy but merely to do the bidding of the government of the day. If CMD sends Booties and Wedgeheads to Somerset then to Somerset they must go.

Derek
Derek

Phil,

Sorry, but we are the human race- we have been successfully living on flood plains for centuries in addition to sending men to the moon, learning to fly and producing the internet. Living on a flood plain is not a problem for us. The problem here is the government, an establishment now so stuffed with islington dwelling oxbridge public policy grad socialists that they it thinks the south coast is the French riviera, which has concocted a state so out of touch with Britain and its people that it puts the opinions of the RSPB above the centuries old needs of taxpayers and which rather send £12 billion to fund other countries space programmes and procurement of Russian military equipment before it will spend a few hundred million on flood defences.

Phil

Sorry, but we are the human race- we have been successfully living on flood plains for centuries in addition to sending men to the moon, learning to fly and producing the internet.

Maybe, but there is a debate to be had about whether or not we should be building or encouraging building in such areas. We have indeed lived on flood plains, I used the example of the Nile Delta to show how it is not necessarily a bad thing. But the difference now is rather than living on plains and adapting to them – we want to carry on watering the plants, driving to work, and have Ocado deliver our weekly shop on those flood plains. That is a very different kettle of fish entirely. And such people have a point – for example in a local town an estate has been built on a flood plain – the very definition of a flood plain in fact. It was built because it has a drainage system etc. All that was sorted out in the planning and construction phase – all boxes ticked, job done. Then when it comes down to maintaining that, well that’s a different story.

The easiest way to stop that sort of sharp practice by developers is to stop them building full stop on flood plains.

Phil

To be honest Phil, my experience in this area sees far too many organisations, each with different funding models and administrative drivers obsessing about coordination and mutual aid arrangements

But are they co-ordinating at the highest level? If they were we’d see more emphasis on prevention I think since that is the cheapest option. But then prevention is a dynamic non-event, this is the root cause of it all. We’re spending all that money on flood defence in Floodshire and the damn place hasn’t flooded once! What a waste!

I have no doubt there’s an obsession with co-ordination but it doesn’t seem to be happening in practice at the highest levels. Whether or not such a model is even possible is doubtful I suppose.

Derek
Derek

Phil,

It is not a different proposition at all. London and most of the Netherlands are a flood plain. Human beings are perfectly capable of defending themselves from the Sea and in the case of Somerset did so successfully for centuries (same in the Wash in North Norfolk), all that happened here is the government chose to not protect those people and to use the money for foreign aid and other forms of waste instead.

Phil

I’m just not seeing why its the governments fault that a flood plain floods? If no dredging was the cause (I suspect it’s a media hyped shrill) why did anyone stand for it? There’s lot of nasty little questions that need to be honestly answered before fingers are pointed.

Observer
Observer

I do see both sides of the issue in what both Derek and Phil have been saying, Phil’s right in that if you live on a flood plain, expect these things, and best way to avoid it all is to not live there in the first place. Derek is also right in that proper use of resources and investment can minimize the effects of flooding. The question all boils down into a lot of factors. Is it economical to put in flood abatement measures (not flood control, a few of them will always get through)? Or is it more economical to just avoid the area? Are people emotionally willing to move from an area where they call “home”? Or that their family have been living there for ages? Is the land fertile enough to risk a few lives for the benefits?

Lots of factors, no easy solution.

Had this crazy idea that instead of trying to turn the area into dry land 24/7/365, you might go the opposite, instead of roads, use canals and sculpted waterways for daily commute and build stilt houses. Turn it into something like the Venice of the UK so when it floods, ho hum, you’ve been using boats to get around anyway. Really crazy idea.

Phil

coordination at a high level,

I know, I know. As if.

But the reality is a body like the EA has such a fundamental remit that its policies effect most of our activities in this Jerusalem.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

Phil, the Somerset Levels were always “managed land”, for about 800 years I think. Until 1998, when the Environment Agency had a budget reduction and took an active choice not to dredge.

I don’t think it’s too fair to blame people for living in a flood plain when for 780 years it has been actively managed, except for the last 20 years. Nor when two “storms of a century” have rolled in in 2012 and 2014.

Phil

Really crazy idea.

Yet it is exactly what would have happened a few hundred years ago.

We adapted to our environment. Now we want to adapt the environment.

That is fine, but that requires a constant and neverending stream of resources.

Why should I pay extra taxes because Peter and Jane don’t want to live in a house on stilts and use a waterway to get to work? Why should resources be committed to maintaining unrealistic lifestyles in floodplains? And why don’t the people living those lifestyles scream to the heavens when flood prevention measures don’t happen? Throw up a white whishy pole to generate essential power and the community is galvanised and Mungo is being pulled out of school to go and protest with Mummy and Daddy with a placard designed on a Mac. But stop flood prevention measures and it seems communities sit on their hands but then scream blue murder when the inevitable happens.

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

I had a customer who built himself a new mock Queen Anne Mansion next to the Thames. The ground floor was raised up about three feet, with grilles under the house that let floodwater run underneath it without damaging the house. I said I thought it was a good idea. I then got a tale of woe about how the planners tried to stop him doing it. They made him cut the size of the rooms, to allow for the area of the grilles underneath. Planners will try to stop individuals taking precautions.
As for Somerset, if rivers have been dredged for centuries, then people will move there. Not their fault if the London trendies drop dredging in favour of foreign aid. We are governed by smug idiots.

Phil

I don’t think it’s too fair to blame people for living in a flood plain when for 780 years it has been actively managed, except for the last 20 years

I’m not blaming them for living there.

I am bringing up some serious issues that I think should be looked at before moaning its Camerons fault because he wants to spend a few million on sanitary towels in Mogadishu.

Observer
Observer

” he wants to spend a few million on sanitary towels in Mogadishu”

That’s a life or death issue. We lose so many promising young men because they forget to wipe before eating. The UN calls it the second biggest brain drain in the world behind Washington. The US tried to assassinate a few warlords there by shaking their hands after going, but alas they developed countermeasures and the attempt proved unsuccessful.

Re: Somerset, should a change in lifestyle be considered?

Derek
Derek

Phil,

Because it was the governments self-declared responsibility to prevent it from flooding. The lack of dredging is not media shrill, its simple fact. The people in Somerset who understood these things have been calling for dredging since it was paused- but they were ignored by a state that puts a fantasy vision of rural England above reality in the name of an impossible socialist utopia.

Humans adapting their environment is nothing new. Be it the bare moors of northern England, the hedgerows of Southern England, the man-made lakes of the Norfolk broads, the non-flooding London or the below sea level wash, we created it all- in most cases centuries ago. Despite the shrill rantings of the deluded we are not simply the masters of our environment we are the creators and it is time we re-embraced that.

Phil

Because it was the governments self-declared responsibility to prevent it from flooding.

It’s very ironic when you state that the government is a socialist organisation in a negative sense but then say that it hasn’t fulfilled its “responsibilities” to you and those people.

Let’s face it, if half the furore of HS2 had been raised by those who watched dredging stop then policy would likely have been reversed.

You’re clearly not a socialist. That means when things go wrong the first place to look is in the mirror.

I’m not having a bash at the people living there. But there needs to be some hard questions.

Brian Black
Brian Black

Just blaming the current administration for not building flood defences is a very simplistic and politically opportunistic view of things.

We have been building properties in areas where homeowners can expect to be flooded with some regularity – not once in 50 years, often closer to five years or so. New homes being built that insurers won’t touch with a shitty stick.
Flood defences for settlements on flood plains only displace water and increase the probability or frequency of flooding elsewhere.
Dredging rivers is claimed to be a solution, but dredge a tributary to protect settlements affected by that river, and you get a faster run-off into next river and more problems for towns and villages further down the water course.
We have previously wooded areas in uplands that have long since been cleared and turned over to agriculture, causing more run-off; but how do you convince farmers te reforest when their CAP payments will be cut?
There is also the weather playing its role.

It’s not the sole fault of the current government; there hasn’t been proper oversight of all the issues for decades. It’s more correct to consider a period from the introduction of land efficiencies in the ’40s through to the present day, and recognise that flood management in this country has been done on an ad-hoc basis throughout.

Derek
Derek

Phil,

Let me be clear, I would rather government spending be reduced to below 15% of GDP and i was responsible for the protection of my home, my own employment insurance and the procurement of my own health care and education for my children. However, socialism is what we are stuck with and in that scenario it is the governments role to provide flood provision- especially as government took responsibility for it. If the state had declared it would no longer provide flood provision and had reduced taxation in line with that I would be with you- but that did not happen.

BB,

We built houses on flood plains because the government promised to protect them, then it stopped. Its not simplistic or opportunistic, its just true.

tweckyspat

APATS

40 marines filling sandbags is a token effort, however grateful the local population are for the effort. I’m with TD on this one.

As for the coordination issue I don’t think this is right v left, socialism v capitalism issue. It’s a civil emergency and I do think its an area not thought about or exercised enough by UK MOD

Looking at this from the Netherlands where I work (and where despite sh1tty weather and surge tides no major flooding this year) it’s all about spending big bucks on flood defence when seen as a whole. It’s much more than a bit of dredging. . Not sure the UK is up for it in the same way as the Dutch, something like 85% of whom live less than 1m above sea level (or something like that)

Simon257
Simon257

@ FEMA

I wouldn’t go as far as creating a huge organisation like FEMA, as the UK doesn’t have to deal with Earthquakes, Hurricanes and Tornadoes as the US does.

But their seems to be no Command and Control. Or if if their is, they are keeping their heads down!. Eight weeks ago this crisis started for the people of Somerset. And no one seems to be in overall charge! Why?

It shouldn’t cost that much to have one or two teams in the UK that could be sent to deal with these incidents. As the Government would do in the event of a Terrorist Attack.

@ Flooding
How much did it cost per annum to dredge the rivers, drains and waterways. How much was saved, once the EA stopped dredging. Compared to the cost of the damage that has been done in the past eight weeks? And the cost now to restarting the dredging?

Is it just me or have a lot of Clueless fools, whatever their ideology or background. Somehow managed to gain Power, Influence and Responsibility in this country. When you wouldn’t trust any of them them with a Spoon!

Observer
Observer

Derek, I suspect the UK government never verbally promised anything along that lines. I’m betting the dredging was done only to prevent silting and oxbow bend formations, not to clear drainage channels to the ocean. Land erosion control, not flood control.

You want a government to control your day to day life? Have a nice long wait. They can make conditions slightly better, but the final arbiter on your life is yourself and the local area around you. Talk to your town council, not Parliament.

Simon257
Simon257

We have to acknowledge, that we are seeing huge amounts of rainfall. As a Lorry Driver, I have never seen so many areas of England and Wales, flooded or waterlogged!

What the media and most people haven’t realised, is that crops planted in the Autumn, have been sitting in saturated fields. They will have started to rot by now. We should therefore, expect food prices to increase later this year.

This current pattern of weather has been called unprecedented, however it has happened before:

http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/storminess-of-the-little-ice-age/

Simon257
Simon257

I forgot to link this. It is a really cool Earth Wind Map

http://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/isobaric/1000hPa/orthographic=-6.64,42.31,289

Mercator
Mercator

Does the UK have an organisation like the Australian State Emergency Service? These guys are volunteers from each local community that come out after storms and help clean up, sandbag stuff prior to floods and lots of other minor emergencies. They also tend to help out the police and the rescue services with manpower. Stuff like looking for lost children in forests and the like. They are volunteers, but there is also a full time command organisation for them in each state. All in all, seems to work pretty well for us, but then we have lots of natural disasters. Lots of practice. :-)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_Emergency_Service
http://www.ses.org.au/

dave haine
dave haine

@ Phil
I bet you live in a town, or a major city…you ain’t paying extra taxes, in fact it’s us in rural communities, that are subsidising you in the towns, we pay the same taxes and community charges as you, but we don’t get the same service as you…a couple of examples- the minimum call-out for a fire brigade, in a conurbation is first appliance in four minutes, second in eight. For rural areas that is one engine in 12 minutes.
The council subsidised bus service to my village, has recently been reduced to one an hour, whilst in the nearest town, the same council is trumpeting the fact they’ve increased the frequency on a couple of routes to one every ten mins.
Rural schools aren’t eligible for the deprivation funding that schools in urban settings are, despite average wages (one of the key triggers) in rural communities being 15% LESS, than in conurbations.

And that brings me on to another point- This isn’t about Janet & John not living on stilts, and having to drive a Range Rover, rather than their much preferred Prius, this is about ordinary working people, generally agricultural workers, being washed out of their homes, or farmers watching their livelihoods going down the tubes. Somerset is a working county, most rural communities are working communities…the countryside is not some giant, lifeless, theme park existing for townies to visit, tramp about in for a day, and go home complaining about the mud. It is a working environment, supplying food to the nation, or generating exports and therefore wealth for the nation.

@ Brian Black
The dredging issue is not about a few tributaries. I suggest you look at the river system. The main river that runs all through is the Parrett (which rises in the east at Chedington) this provides the main outflow, and all the other rivers, rhynes and drains, drain into the Parrett. What all the locals are calling for, and the EA were refusing to do (in order to protect the nature reserve at the mouth of the Parrett), was for the Parrett, North, South & Kings Sedgemoor Drain, and the Tone to be dredged on a continuing basis. This would speed the outflow, and therefore speed the draining of any flooding. And before you question the effectiveness of this scheme. This was what used to happen, when the drainage boards were in control, The drainage boards would deliberately flood certain areas within the levels, during the winter, to maintain some habitats, and keep the natural environment. All of this was planned and managed, the locals supported it, indeed encouraged it, and all was well (we like our wildlife, and we like having a natural landscape, down here).

See, what the locals want is for proper management, we don’t mind flooding, we’re used to that, all we want is for it to drain away quickly. A lot of locals (and British Waterways) would like to see the waterways navigable again, as well. There’s money to be made from leisure cruising, and some commercial work to be had.

What the EA say:
http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/static/documents/Leisure/_CFMP_Parrett_2012.pdf

BTW the waters are still rising, and now it’s backing further up all the streams. And its spreading beyond the levels- my local river the Stour, has broken its banks at East Stour, and is raising back towards the A30. We are quite close to where it rises (about half an hour away, and just north of the A303).

My neighbour, a water quality analyst for the EA, returned home last night about midnight, after about 36hrs straight building defences, I ran into her a few days ago in Moorland where she passed me her keys and asked me to feed her dog. Its not the local teams in the EA- I’ve seen heroic efforts from them, and funnily enough they’ve always agreed with the locals, it’s the p***ks higher up with their grand ideas and frankly, contempt and distain for local knowledge and the needs of the communities on the levels, and surrounding areas.

WiseApe

@Simon257 – Thanks for the Earth Wind Map, great link. Hint to all: click on the globe, you can zoom and rotate.

Adequate flood defences for the country would cost billions. Remind me again how much we are proposing to spend on HS2.

Sir Humphrey

This is what I put over on ARRSE about this subject:

Why do I have a problem with the military being called in? My issue isn’t the skills they offer but its a wider rooted one based on having spent a fair amount of time in the MACA/MACP environment.

Fundamentally we’ve spent years downsizing our armed forces and at the same time spending a lot of time upskilling our first responders capability. If you look at what we’ve spent over the years on this area, you’ll see a lot of work has gone into ensuring that those people that do this all the time do a very good job of it. Meanwhile the military (standfast those very specific niche areas like EOD / SF / QRA etc) has spent much of the last 10 years extracting itself from this same situation and trying to get to the stage where aid is something that really should only be done when lives are at immediate risk.

Why I dislike it is that there is a constant cry from commentators that the military should be sent in to fix the problem, without considering that we’ve got a perfectly good set of first responders who are paid to do that sort of thing already. Injecting the military in my experience means throwing manpower into a situation where the first responders don’t know what to do with it, don’t really have a clear concept of how they add value (speak to Police or others about the much vaunted CCRFs and their line was ‘we’ll have you on a picket line thanks) and they often end up in true military fashion trying to reinvent the wheel as they crack on with good intent but not necessarily understanding.

From a wider perspective, I dislike the use of the military in this generic flood relief etc because it encourages laziness on the part of the local authorities who rather than finally getting the message that the Army is not here and they need to actually accept responsiblity and plan (using the not inconsiderable tools and funds available for this), and deliver a proper disaster plan. There is an intense intellectual laziness at local authority level which I’ve seen first hand where the moment a problem strikes, its easier to say ‘ring the Army’ rather than say ‘crack on with the plan’. This intense laziness is then intensified when a few months later the bill turns up for the Army personnels services and they refuse to pay it believing that it was free.

The issue of charging is another reason I dislike using military people. We’ve not got an infinite supply of specialist troops and it really annoys me to see them being used to do manual tasks that anyone could do, rather than the job we’ve spent a long time and a lot of public money training them to do. It impacts on the front line (look at how many OPTAG units were taken off task for flooding a few years ago and the impact this had), and it reduces our readiness to do proper military jobs. Its akin to saying ‘right we’ve got to go and do peackeeping in the Balkans but we’re overstretched so we’re going to call out the Taunton intensive care medical unit to do it for us’. Its not the right use of people, and it hurts the wider military. This is without considering the problems of expended stores and support which then not only takes forever to replace due to cheapskate councils refusing to pay the bill, but also means units are not at the right readiness to go and do the job.

Finally it annoys me because I am fed up of watching a cluster of passed over yesterdays men, generally occupying various staff officer posts in the backwoods of the regional forces seeing flooding as a chance to justify the retention of an Army which is already too big relative to the actual defence needs of the UK. I’m clear that I want to see MOD money spent on DEFENCE and not on helping Mrs Miggins rescue her daughters dripping wet pussy. If this means that we’re harsh enough to say ‘man up, go and do your own contingency planning like the law requires you to do’ and we then draw on the huge pool of manpower, expertise and resources that exists already in the UK, and not rely on a small expeditionary armed forces optimised for going overseas to bring a barely negotiable peace by merciless application of heavy firepower to a bemused local population, then thats a good thing.

We need to stop treating every single opportunity as a reason to get the Army involved and instead ask quite rationally why the Army needs to be involved and whether someone else couldnt do a better job. From what I’ve seen so far of the flooding, the MOD response involves putting wet bootnecks into the water and filling sandbags. Meanwhile the same villagers moaning about a lack of response on TV seem to be doing jack shit to save their local area and instead expect MOD to do it for them.

Bluntly I’d like to see people man up and solve their problems and not expect the great benevolent uncle MOD to do it for them.

dave haine
dave haine

@ Sir Humphrey

Bluntly, I can tell you, from personal experience, you are talking b****x! The ‘same villagers moaning about a lack of response’, have been doing somewhat more than jack shit, to save their own houses… The farmers have fighting to save their livestock, other villages have been helping….I’m half an hour away, yet I’ve been across to help. South Somerset District Council sent all their blokes to help.

Lets put a few facts your way.

these areas have been flooded for 6 weeks now, two weeks into the flooding, the council class it as a major incident, what response? f**k all.
No-one came to help, until CmD saw an opportunity to show what a great man in a crisis he is.

For your info the waters are still rising, and the flooded area is steadily growing. Rivers in the areas surrounding the levels are also now starting to break their banks.

What council has the resources, or indeed the money, to deal with an incident that has left 65 sq miles of land underwater, flooded out three villages, cut off three more, and is threatening more. And it’s still raining.

The flooding contingency plan called for extra pumps to pump out the flood water into the Parrett. Which hasn’t been dredged. So can’t take the water flow. The Parrett is 42% of its pre-2000 capacity.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom

What I don’t understand is why the RM are just filling sandbags, surely the best use of the RM would be using small boats or amphibious vehicles to get supplies where they are needed. To build flood defences surely the best units would be from the RE using their earth moving equipment etc.
One think that really caught my eye was the shot of the house on Sky News having a earth bank being built around it, surely that will slowly erode so why don’t they use Hesco to stop the erosion.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

@ Sir Humphrey,

The first 80% of your post appears to be a general rant, which might be a valid opinion but is not very specific or furnished with details to support your view.

The last 20% is rather specific to Somerset, small-minded and nasty, and completely unfair. Unless like Dave Haines you have direct local knowledge, or like me friends directly involved and suffering considerable financial losses, you have no basis for making such wide-sweeping remarks.

Phil

I bet you live in a town, or a major city

I grew up in one of the most rural parts of Wales. It qualifies for European convergence funding which makes it pretty damn poor by UK standards.

I do indeed live in a major city now, and I’m even purchasing a property which the EA maps shows is on a flood plain. But it will be insured and I’m the type who thinks about what to do in situations like that and what I would need and where I could go. If it does flood, I will hardly act surprised.

As has been pointed out – the entire media shrill is distorting data. As someone has pointed out dredging is not a win-win no-brainer. Dredging or building levels and waterways affects other areas in different ways too. The whole question is a massive normative one – should we build in high risk areas, should we spend on prevention or resilience or recovery, should we manipulate the environment and to whose benefit, and who makes those choices and who should pay?

dave haine
dave haine

@ Eng. T
You are indeed right….one of the best temporary solutions I’ve seen was the result of a local construction company and a farmer- they half-filled a whole load of those 1 tonne bulk bags, with gravel and sand and moved them into place with a Manatou Telelifter, topped them up with more sand- jobs a good ‘un.

@ Phil
Insurance? Really? On a property in a recognised flood plain? Well, good luck with that.

Now returning to the levels- it isn’t the flooding as such, winter flooding happens every year. We’re used to it, we deal with it. Its the simple fact that the water is still there after six weeks, and still rising. And it happened last year too. In the years when the drainage boards were in control, the Parrett, Tone and Kings Sedgemoor Drain were all dredged regularly, and funnily enough, the floods happened, but went away nice and quickly. So the dredging worked, not in theory, but in fact. The water was managed, for the benefit of the rural communities, and the natural environment. Some areas were flooded on a regular basis to preserve the natural environment, mitigation measures existed and were known and accepted by the locals. Everything in happy union and balance.

The EA come along, wrest control off the drainage boards, stop dredging and a few years later this is the result. Put simply they tried to fix something that wasn’t broke.

Now all the locals want is a resumption of dredging, and a proper flood mitigation programme. Some locals have even suggested dredging the whole network to a navigable state, to generate an income from leisure cruising. British Waterways, would like to generate commercial traffic on the levels too.

As for new building on the levels, that only happens on the burtles, and other higher ground. The Level and Moor is being kept as natural as it can be.

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

I blame Labour 1997-2010, who hated the countryside for opposing the hunting ban. Local boards that had done regular amounts of dredging for centuries were stopped & the power went to uncaring London trendies. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Before you blame the locals, remember many of those homes are 100+ years old & never flooded when dredging still went on. Also, you try & build a new house with flood defences. Planners will do their best to stop you. When I was at School the UK population was 53 million. It is now 63 million. We need to feed that population & should avoid waterlogged crops rotting in the fields. If you still resent Somerset getting a little help, how much did the Thames Barrier cost? Was that not worth the money?

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom

As I understand the levels have a network of drainage ditches that the water from the fields drains into, this network fills up and is then pumped into the network of rivers. That is how the floods have been managed for centuries. Since dredging was stopped the amount of water flowing through the rivers has reduced by 60%, this means that 60% less water can be pumped out of the network of drainage ditches, and so floods occur.

So dredging isn’t the whole solution, it is just the part of the solution that has been stopped.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom

Just seen, they are now using Hesco to build flood barriers.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

Hesco – invented up the road in Leeds I believe…

GNB

DavidNiven
DavidNiven

I’ve always found Hesco very helpful when asking for specs etc.

http://www.hesco.com/sites/default/files/downloads/HESCO_FLOOD_ProductSheet_21_10_13.pdf

dave haine
dave haine

@Eng. T

You are substantially correct, except the field ditches drain into the rhynes, then into the rivers, drains connect the rivers together, so the whole system is interconnected- even the canals. There are sluices and clyses to control and direct the flow. The Huntspill river has clyses at both ends so it can be used to store water in periods of low rainfall, or hold it and release slowly. The whole thing is an interconnected system.

Used, maintained and controlled properly, the levels waterway system can hold enormous amounts of water, and direct it quickly and efficiently.

All thats really needed is to biuld a clyse at the mouth of the Parrett to stop tidal locking, and a cut to link it to the Axe river system, and they could flow water all over the south, reducing the pressure on one area by spreading the load across a wider area.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

@DH,

Just a small side note to thank you for bringing local knowledge.

You have unfortunately made public and so destroyed my only contribution to pub quizzes: “what are drainage ditches on Sedgemoor called? Rhynes”@@@. Oh well, I shall have to fall back to Scotland’s contribution to elephant polo.

@@@ the product of a much missed childhood at prep school just north of Taunton, and the privilege of knowing our school groundsman, the much loved Ben Goldman who was a Jewish East ender, a member of the LRDG in WW2, a man who could make plants grow by merely looking at them, and who saved the 1976 Windies tour for them when our prep school playing fields were the only fields able to be used for the Somerset vs Windies match during the drought. Viv Richards paid for some new nets.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@RT – I am delighted to hear that the pub quizzes around Wisbcwz have a Draining Swamps Round…ours naturally major on Dark Satanic Mills, and of course Dourness…

GNB

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

@ GNB,

Drainage is something common to much of the country, whether Somerset Levels, or the Fens, or indeed somewhere ghastly in Ethics. It is not common knowledge among Sir Humphreys (either in generality as a comment on our sub-optimal civil service, or specifically in relation to a TD commenter) or gay boy pseudo Lords with a left wing London agenda. They have no idea about practicalities, nor any empathy for people living in the Levels, or Fens, nor indeed any idea at all that it has all been managed without Westminster’s “help” for centuries.

dave haine
dave haine

@ RT

Don’t worry you’ve still got ‘clyses’, ‘burtles’ and ‘droves’…and you could also point out, in an act of extreme pedantry that rhynes are not ditches…..we have ditches in somerset- rhynes are different. And ‘rhyne’ is pronounced differently, depending on which side of the Parrett you’re on.

And you could also point out that the correct name is the ‘Somerset levels and moor’.

steve taylor
steve taylor

If your knowledge of the Agrarian Revolution goes beyond Tull you will know that the biggest benefit of mechanisation (industrialisation) was nothing to do with planting or harvesting but the capability to produce clay pipe for drainage in huge quantities. And if you know anything about farming you will know drainage is a problem even in lumpy places.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

@DH,

Chuffing Nora, that’s going into details I forgot 38 years ago that I knew…

I get a twice annual dose of nostalgia on visiting an Aunt and Uncle in Taunton. Their house is the highest in Edwardian Taunton, with an embellishment on the roof that can be seen for miles. I first spotted it from the window of my dormitory at school when I was 7. I now stay there in their guest wing with my family, and the highest window to the north is my old prep school dormitory. There used to be the 4 Apostles oaks on the Blackdowns to the south east of Taunton, which could be seen from both house and school, but 3 seem to have blown down in a storm.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@x- Living in a lumpy place, I can confirm that…our advantage is that the water drains away fairly swiftly…just as well really, because if it didn’t most of you would need gills…

GNB

dave haine
dave haine

@ X

Wouldn’t you have said that the Agricultural Revolution was the necessary precursor to the industrial revolution?
So the improvement in crop yields, more productive harvests and more efficient land use, meant that the food supply could support more service, non-agricultural or non-animal husbandry jobs, and therefore allow more labour intensive industries.

Mass production of land drainage pipes, and indeed more advanced land drainage techniques just allowed farmers to introduce more efficient land use techniques and use more marginal land for crops.

But those clay pipes were more a product of the industrial revolution, than the agricultural revolution, although it is fair to say that the two are intertwined.

But indeed, field drainage is a problem even in lumpy places.

Phil

Wouldn’t you have said that the Agricultural Revolution was the necessary precursor to the industrial revolution?

It’s more complex than that I think. However, what was necessary for the industrial revolution was plenty of energy.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ GNB re gills

No I am safe here!

@ David Haine

Revolutions in technology (in any sphere I suppose) overlap each other and feed off each other. They aren’t discrete.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@ The Alphabet Soup – both obviously emerging from the increasingly open and meritocratic social and economic order that came out of the British Civil Wars, as finally brought to their apotheosis by the Glorious Revolution in 1689…which itself came out of the remaking of the state by the Tudors in the sixteenth century…a product of the fall of English France and the dynastic struggle between the two branches of the House of Plantagenet in the fifteenth century…made possible by the changes in English society actuated by the Black Death, the emergence of the wool economy, the development of near-professional armies of yeoman with longbows, and the key differences between European and English Society with respect to the inheritance of land in the fourteenth century…

Whig History, it’s just one good thing after another…

A rising and progressing Gloomy

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ GNB

Actually I think in some ways we are on the slippery slope backwards……

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@x – because the Marxist School are now in the ascendancy…but I see some hope in the emergence of influential new voices like that of Niall Ferguson, and of course at least some of the Great War Revisionists are in the Whig Tradition…

“Trevelyan” Gloomy

Phil

Niall Ferguson is a bit too populist for me with his “killer apps”.

steve taylor
steve taylor

Better to be a real historian and never have your works read outside the halls of academia, eh? ;)

dave haine
dave haine

@ Phil
It is complex, which why historians argue over it so much.
You could also say that access to raw materials and the techniques and methods to process them were also necessary for the industrial revolution, as indeed was social stability, political evolution, availability of labour and innovation.

Everyone always thinks of steam power being a catalyst for the industrial revolution. Surely the reality is that factories were the catalyst, and they were originally powered by water.

I would still contend that without more efficient food production, there wouldn’t be the availability of labour, to feed the hungry maw of those dark satanic mills.

We also mustn’t forget the market- without demand from the increasingly prosperous middle-class, there would be no drive to produce more.

BTW the waters are still rising- strangely, my beard is growing, and I’m getting an urge to wear looser flowing clothing….

Phil

Better to be a real historian and never have your works read outside the halls of academia, eh?

Well yes if your conclusions are more valid that way!

Phil

I didn’t mean steam – I meant energy. I also meant to say resources too.

I’m of the school that argues Europe would have remained a backwater had it not been for the opening up of a great periphery – the New World. This huge injection of resources and energy was the catalyst. Various other forms of society and governments have exploited and done well from new resources and energy sources so I am not so sure the political conditions were fundamental since industrial revolutions happened in places with different ones to the UK.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

Interesting on the news tonight. The fat man Pickles stating that the Government made mistakes, but in the same breath saying that it was assumed the EA were professionals.

I don’t care much for politics, but I can sniff when the wind is changing. Lord Chris Smith being resigned by next weekend, I think, and a new focus on flood defence and less bird sanctuaries by Wednesday after that.

As a result of all of this, I discover that the EA are the ones responsible for choosing not to dredge the Levels, but that here in the Fens the EA were told to poke off and we still have local drainage boards, and we are regularly dredged and still not flooded.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Phil

:) Well the Americans like him at least. Um……..moving swiftly on……..

@ RT re bird sanctuaries

Like the wildlife have done well thanks to trendy environmentalists? We mustn’t confuse “environmentalists” and those with a true and genuine interest in our wildlife.

Craig
Craig

@RT

Actually the set up in the Fens (and the Broads for that matter) is no different to Somerset. The Environment Agency is responsible for coastal defences and Main Rivers (defined by statute). The local Internal Drainage Boards, together with local authorities, are responsible for other watercourses and land drainage.

The media must be using their defence correspondents to cover the story as the reporting has been truly staggering.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@Phil – I have to disagree with you I’m afraid – the Industrial Revolution that shaped the modern world started in Great Britain at first slowly but with gathering pace from about 1700…and it is hard to escape the conclusion that it was in large part shaped by the key social and economic changes that took place here between 1639 and 1689…not that the expansion of Europe into a wider world was not of great importance…but it is noticeable that despite having different but equally important resources the Spanish South and Central American Empire did not evolve into the World’s sole superpower and the British North American one did…as to why, I would suggest the difference was between the intellectually closed and politically autocratic landowning and rentier society of the Dons…and the intellectually and scientifically curious and politically open mercantile society of the early generations of British-American Colonists and their subsequent American-American successors.

There are no Chinese or Indian invented steam engines, and that is just a straightforward fact…and what came after our Industrial Revolution elsewhere in Europe was for the most part imitation, often consciously so, for at least two or three generations…

A very slightly pugnacious Gloomy

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

@ Craig,

There must be a bit of drainage skulduggery going on. I only have the local paper to go on, but in the letters page there are allegations that the EA tried to assume control over the various 20 foot and 40 foot drains to the Ouse, but were headed off at the pass. My daily run takes me past the grandly titled Bedford Upper Levels Commissioners’ boathouse, where they keep their dredging boats. Slightly surprising name, given that we are 40 miles downstream from Bedford.

My only interaction with the local 20 foot drain is in running along its’ course, and 3 winters ago freeing a swan that had become trapped by ice, which was apparently foolish, but I didn’t get that close to it, merely broke the ice a couple of feet away.

Phil

You’re not disagreeing with me Gloomy, you’re disagreeing with this chap mostly.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Great-Divergence-Europe-Economy/dp/0691090106

The amount of research in this book is astonishing. It’s dry as dust but very persuasive. It shows that Europe pre the New World was about to be locked, or already was locked into a dead-end developmental path – just like China. The difference was the New World and it’s energy stores and markets and resources.

Political institutions cannot create raw energy no matter how liberal, pluralistic etc
A work of some scholarship.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ GNB

It also helps that God is English too. :)

As for the USA it is down to the 2P’s; Protestantism and Property.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@RT – I am told that the business about swans is much over-egged but as a (very!) erstwhile sculler, I’ll confess I was never much tempted to test the proposition…

@Phil – economic determinism? You are the last man I would have put down as a Marxist…with the obvious exception of our favourite Light Cavalry Officer (Retd)…I might try to get hold of the book though…

@X – Naturally…and are the triumphs of Protestantism and Property not a convenient shorthand for the events whereof I speak?

GNB

Phil

Environmental determinism old boy. I’m definitely an environmental determinist. Not to any extreme abstract fashion. He argues that the environment imposed real limits. When suddenly there was more environment there were advances. I agree that political conditions can definitely increase prosperity and activity but it can’t make anything more than marginal gains if there are environmental constraints.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

@GNB,

The problem with Marxism is that you can’t make an honest profit from it. Apparently, it is against the rules, but they are not any rules I play by.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@Phil – not buying it yet – the Chinese had fast flowing water and both coal and iron ore in large quantities but didn’t to my knowledge develop industrial water mills or the steam engine….=and might have arrived on the Pacific Coast of America even before we arrived at the Atlantic Coast…but the Emperor laid up Zheng He’s fleet of large ocean-going junks…resources clearly matter, but I think there is good empirical evidence to believe that cultural, social and economic norms matter more.

We might be learning Mandarin now, but in many respects it barely matters because they are all over here learning English and studying at our Universities…

But I will look for the book.

GNB

Observer
Observer

Actually Gloomy, think the Greeks and Arabs had their own steam engines, it was just that they had no use for them. Europe was in the “zone” where there was enough infrastructure to make road networks feasible which evolved to rail networks. Can you imagine trying to sell someone about the initial need to make a rail line through desert? The initial investment sum would have been horrifying. Only once steam has proven itself in Europe were people more receptive to the idea in areas of the world where access is a problem. And from engines, World Domination!! Bwahahaha!!! :P

But honestly, mindset counts for a lot. A conservative country would not have the burning need to take things to the limit. “Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look, he thinks too much; such men are dangerous.”

dave haine
dave haine

Interesting discussion…
I think Phil is right in that the most restricting factor is the one that determines what and how fast something happens.
The greeks had a theoretical knowledge of water power (BTW- I happen to think that steam power wasn’t as important to the industrial revolution as is commonly thought) and steam power, but apart from a few toys, very little practical use was made, because scientific philosophy was more about logical thinking than practical experiment and application. and they were, by and large a collection of city states, seemingly in perpetual disagreement with outsiders, each other and themselves (bit like the Scots now)
The chinese had the resources, some theoretical knowledge and to a certain extent the practical application, but it was tightly controlled by a political and cultural elite, who saw such knowledge as dangerous in the wrong hands, and were perpetually manoeuvring to gain advantage, or to sieze political power. Equally, the same could be said of the Japanese and Koreans. Very similar societies in some ways.

That’s just two examples of how all the factors need to ‘line-up’ in order for a great leap forward.

I think that the re-discovery of the new world was not a catalyst for the industrial revolution, more an indicator. I think this because TBH we were relatively late to the new world party. The spanish and portuguese were ahead, but basically plundered it to line the pockets of a cultural and political elite, who had a disdain for ‘trade’ and saw little point in technological advancement, because ‘we’re doing quite nicely thank you…oh and by the way would you just f**k off with all this privateering nonsense England’.
The birthplace of the renaissance- the italian city states were much the same albeit with more intellectual curiosity, content to as long as the spice trade remained in their hands.
How much of this attitude was the influence of the Roman Catholic church is debatable, but it is interesting to note that the two overtly protestant nations of Europe, England and The Netherlands, with their very different attitudes to trade and society, and both frozen out of the catholic trading network, were the ones that developed advanced agricultural and industrial techniques first. Forced to find their own trading routes and in intense competition with each other, they both had societies that encouraged scientific experimentation and practical application, and had a growing middle class of traders and merchants, keen to better themselves.
In the end, everything ‘lined-up’, and England was the birthplace of the industrial revolution, because a benign political system allowed the rise of the trader and merchant (Arguably started in the tudor period). The growing political and economic power of the middle class (driven by better education) led to an increasing demand for goods and allowed financial speculation, allied to a relatively free society, that allowed and encouraged innovation and scientific speculation and drew in skilled migrants from other more repressive countries.
The agricultural revolution freed society from the tyranny of limited food supply, which allowed the country to support more non-food producing mouths, which in turn led to the availability of cheap labour.
Innovation led to more efficient techniques of power production, access to raw materials, and mechanisation of production techniques, allowing the down skilling of trades.
Which brought cheaper goods to market, allowing more levels of society to buy them, leading to greater demand.
Which demanded greater innovation….

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@Dave Haine…resulting to a large extent to Great Britain inventing the Modern World; and generating a whole publishing industry devoted to proving that we somehow didn’t in the face of overwhelming empirical evidence…

…like the fact that all the books making the argument are written and published in English, because, by an odd coincidence it is the international language of business and scholarship and the World’s second language by a country league…not that such an outcome has anything to do with GB of course..!

GNB

Observer
Observer

Gloomy, parlez-vous francais?

It could have easily gone the other way, the Portuguese and Dutch were the initial colonizers in Asia and Columbus was hardly English. I believe French was the language of choice in those days and Greek back in the times of Old Rome. But times change. GB was actually a classic case of the guy having the last laugh. WWI helped.

steve taylor
steve taylor

Observe said “Actually Gloomy, think the Greeks and Arabs had their own steam engines, it was just that they had no use for them.”

I think you mean some Arab read in a Greek about a steam engine and then got some artisan from another culture to build it for him. Please let us not spread the “Arabia was great civilization” meme here.

Observer
Observer

x, I have about as much interest in promoting Arabia as I have of promoting facial wash. Which is none at all. Don’t care if some Arab got it from a Greek book or if the Gods dropped one on his head, important thing was that they had it, and it went absolutely nowhere.

a
a

The 1st century Greeks had them – the aeolipyle of Hero of Alexandria. But they never put them to much use. I’m not aware of the Arabs or Persians having them, smart chaps though they were. But given that the killer app for early steam engines was pumping out flooded coal mines, it’s easy to see how the Arabs might not have seen much use for them, given they weren’t oversupplied with coal mines – or indeed water.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@Observer – Could but didn’t, which is pretty much my point…and bearing in mind where you are writing from, don’t be rude to we old folks…without us, you wouldn’t be here…or there…you young whippersnapper!

Still can’t do a smiley face to show that is a joke…

GNB

Observer
Observer

Gloomy, it’s : followed by a ). :)

So can I say it’s all your fault that people are neither here nor there?

Reminds me of the old nursery rhyme about the Duke of York.

Derek
Derek

I see some people still parroting the same environment agency propaganda here.

This is very simple, this flooding happened because the EA stopped dredging, that is the only variable that has changed. Guardian ranting about bare uplands is just that, they have been bare for centuries and are not a changed variable- the flooding was caused by the ideological decision of the EA to not dredge the relevant rivers. That ideology is founded upon a contempt for the British people, the same contempt which sends money that could have been used for dredging to fund the Indian space programme.

Also, note that now it looks like the Thames might start flooding the high value homes of the ruling elite in Surrey the floods are suddenly headline news on the BBC. The people of the South West were abandoned by Britain’s ruling elite who regard them as nothing more than a nuisance ripe for ever greater taxation.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom

Looking at what has been happening over the last few weeks, with regards the response to the flooding, and after hearing a few other people suggest a FEMA style organisation or a version of the Australian State Emergency Service, I am now beginning to think that if we had an overarching civil emergency service to deal with the response to incidents such as this we would be in a better position to respond as and when needed.

My ideal version of this would take the form of an overarching organisation to coordinate approved training and organisation of the already existing volunteer organisations. This would work by allowing local volunteer groups to sign up to this national program which trains their volunteers in the basic safety and first aid etc. so that the professional services know they are getting trained volunteers in an emergency situation.

These local groups would then specialise (most already are specialised groups), in an area of emergency response, such as water rescue, first aid, evacuation centre management, construction etc. whatever their strength leans towards. The national organisation will then in a time of emergency decide which volunteer organisations to deploy and to where, in this way the right skills would go to the right place.

This national organisation could go further and have its own command unit made up of emergency coordination experts from all the various professional services, as well as providing communication support, though I am not sure about this approach. At the moment this is provided on an adhoc basis depending on the emergency.

I wouldn’t want a SES style organisation as we already have a diverse range of organisations with their own identities who could be pulled together to form a strong response. Also making the national organisation to strong may put off the volunteer groups from wanting to take part. I would rather it be seen as an institute like they have in the engineering profession that guarantees the training a member has undertaken is up to standard. With the coordination of deployment being more along the lines of; providing a directory of skills to the incident commander. This national organisation could also approve safety equipment and help arrange funding avenues, not provide it except in skill areas that might be lacking.

A mess of thoughts on the topic, but it seems like this could be a useful addition, so as we don’t need to deploy the military.

a
a

The point you allude to about prevention/resilience v response is equally problematical because local authorities and other cat 1 responders will do ONLY their statutory duties because they have a million other obligations and adult social care, education and child services will always get a high priority.

This is it, really. Floods and so on are what we call tail risks – they’re over on the right hand end of the frequency/severity chart. And that means they are always at risk of slipping off the to-do list, for perfectly understandable reasons: spending money on them is a long-odds gamble that might pay off big but probably won’t, at least not in the next financial year. Spending the money instead on your everyday responsibilities will definitely pay off tomorrow.

I’m not sure who this means:
” the MoD has responded by supplying a small group of Royal Marines as unskilled general labour to drop in a handful of sand bags. A job that could have been done by almost anyone.”

Almost anyone like… who? Is there another bunch of people in government employment who have relevant kit, can be shifted rapidly anywhere in the country, and aren’t already doing something important right now? We can’t send, say, half the London police force to Somerset; they’re busy policing London. We can’t send the staff of the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh; they’ve got babies to deliver and kidneys to transplant and bones to set. We can’t send all the primary school teachers in Leeds; the kids would run riot. Who else is there?

Do we need a civil emergency force sitting around waiting for the next set of floods – and, if so, what would they do the other 99% of the time? Should there be a Civil Defence Voluntary Reserve along the lines of the Army Reserve, perhaps (with the FANYs as the equivalent of the HAC, adding a bit of class to what would otherwise be a mere vulgar brawl)?

Chris.B.

“Also, note that now it looks like the Thames might start flooding the high value homes of the ruling elite in Surrey the floods are suddenly headline news on the BBC”

— Sometimes I get the feeling that other people are watching a completely different BBC to the one I catch now and again, given that the flooding in Somerset has been headline news on the BBC ever since it first started. Or at least it was on the BBC that gets transmitted to Essex.

steve taylor
steve taylor

Have the BBC stopped talking about Nelson Mandela yet?

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom

Wrote a long post on how we could build a nationwide civil reserve from existing organisations, but it seems to have been eaten. :(

Phil

@ Gloomy

If you look at technological developments you often find that the technology matches a use. Steam engines are a lovely curiosity, invented countless times across the world but had no practical use.

Nobody needed them for anything that water couldn’t do.

Then mines needed pumping, steam engines were good for that. And so off they went. It wasn’t a political system that saw steam engines become potentially useful to pump mines clear of water.

Interestingly, many societies that did not have access tame herding animals never invented or widely used the wheel. They had no animals to pull anything so it had no value as a piece of technology.

Certainly the political and social context allowed the UKs economy to grow as it did, but its down to the environment that there was the potential to grow that far at all.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@Phil – all true, but others had a similarly benign environment…we are the ones who took hold of the world and shook it…

GNB

steve taylor
steve taylor

Engineer Tom said “Wrote a long post on how we could build a nationwide civil reserve from existing organisations, but it seems to have been eaten. :( ”

Hopefully the irony of you not having a back up isn’t lost on you………………. :) ;)

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom

Yeah, it has now appeared, all good.

a
a

Engineer Tom, good post, but is poor training the problem here? It’s not my impression that there are a lot of half-trained volunteers making things worse. The St Johns Ambulance, the RNLI and so on are pretty expert. What’s lacking seems more like co-ordination (which you mention) and matching of troops to task.

Co-ordination: I suspect the big issue here will be a legal one; if the National Emergency Service orders you into a dangerous situation, are they liable if you come to harm? Are you, in fact, going to be under their command in any formal sense, as a firefighter is under the command of his officers? You’d need some kind of callout process that would actually create a formal commitment – like the reserve mobilisation requirement. So a St Johns Ambulance volunteer can spend the occasional Saturday working at football matches or giving first aid lessons on behalf of St Johns Ambulance, but when the shit hits the fen, as it were, she gets a brown envelope and has to get moving in the direction of Norfolk for a couple of weeks.

Troops to task: are there many existing voluntary organisations that could supply the kind of general manpower that these floods need? We don’t (fortunately) need lots of medics. What we need is thousands of people to travel across the country on short notice to drive lorries and helm boats and shift sandbags and look after evacuees. I don’t think there’s anyone in the voluntary sector who does that kind of thing – probably because it’s an emergency-only requirement, and there would be nothing for them to do most of the time. As I say, this would really be when a non-military Civil Defence Reserve would come in handy. Low commitment most of the time, maybe run the occasional training weekend to get your boat skipper’s certificate or your HGV licence or your first aid qualification, but when the country needs you they know where to find you.

Observer
Observer

Gloomy, thought it was the Dutch :P

As in the Dutch East Indies Company. Before it did something stupid and created the world’s first bubble market and crash.

Chris
Chris

Quick aside – it does strike me odd that I have not seen a prevalence of Chelsea Tractors out and about in the floods – all these e-nor-mous 4x4s that take little Jemima and Tarquin to school? In difficult times when the water is rising you would have thought the owners of these rough and tough off-roaders – bought because they suited their owners’ rugged lifestyle (pause to laugh helplessly) – would have offered their use to the flood wardens or emergency services? I know a farmer back where I used to live and he said when there was a risk of floods all the local farmers signed up to a call-out plan for them and their LandRovers tractors telehandlers etc. I understand the farmers in Somerset have been making use of whatever they can to help, but there must be four times as many X5s, RangeRovers, XC90s, Shoguns, LandCruisers, Discos and the like not in farmers’ hands – seems a bit selfish not getting organized to make use of them for once in conditions they were designed to cope with.

Just saying., like.

Chris
Chris

Obs – wash your mouth out! The Dutch? As a loyal British subject I could not possibly accept they were the vanguard and fine upstanding Britain merely followed (whether its true or not)….

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom

@ a

Regards boat handling, I was thinking the Maritime Volunteer Service, they train their members all-round the country and provide support boats for major water events, and they have a number of groups local to me.

Then there are other organisations such as the WI/Salvation Army who could man rescue centres, 4X4 Response UK could provide 4X4’s in emergency situations and they are nationwide and of course St Johns Ambulance for first aid.

Maybe a new reserve of civil volunteers could be created to provide manual labour and other specialist roles such as HGV drivers and communications experts, but I wouldn’t want the more specialist groups left out just because they aren’t in this reserve force.

I would be hesitant to make it a forced service organisation, as not everyone will be available for every emergency, so there would be fewer volunteers for organisations if they could dictate that you have to give up time.

The legal issue about liability etc. was what I was getting at with giving everyone a minimum level of training across the board so that they can cope in dangerous situations. I believe that if they knew they would get trained and capable, rather than just well meaning (quite possibly highly trained, but unknown), volunteers, the emergency services would be very welcoming of volunteers in an emergency. It is not that the volunteers are untrained it is just that he professionals can’t equate what these qualifications actually are, so they are unsure about how trained volunteers really are, or at least that is my impression.

a
a

Tom, very good points, and I hadn’t heard of the Maritime Volunteer Service or 4×4 Response – those sound like exactly the sort of skills needed. This is seeming more and more workable.
The only issue that remains is enduring presence. Would MVS members be happy spending weeks in Somerset helping out, rather than just giving up a weekend to do safety cover at a yacht race? The value of the reserve-like status here is that there’s a callout – albeit probably through “intelligent mobilisation” – and their jobs are preserved for them while they’re away.
On the qualifications issue – I am not an expert here at all, but there are national qualification schemes for most of these already – BTEC, NVQ, that sort of thing. Maybe there needs to be more done to bring volunteer groups into this matrix.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom

@ a

I believe there are the qualifications, but maybe they would need looking at to see if they need tweaking and also maybe some more specialised new qualifications, one thought I had would be that the national body, could act like a professional body such as an engineering institute who assess the qualifications and experience of a person and award them a signal recognisable qualification level such as incorporated or chartered engineer.

And on calling people up there may be a need for some sort of support when calling people up, maybe as simple as legal protection for their job etc. But I would like to see a system more along the lines of where a unit is called up, such as a single MVS unit and for example they provide one rib and 2 crews, so probably about 10-12 personnel, from a unit size of say at least 30. It is then up to members of the unit to volunteer to go, this could provide an intelligent way of calling people up, but it would also mean that the local group would be able to determine who is the best to go from those available on the day.

steve taylor
steve taylor
DavidNiven
DavidNiven

@x

Typical British media, when you read the story there is no mention of the Army refusing to be used, not even a mention of them being asked.

dave haine
dave haine

@ Eng. T.
Perhaps we shouldn’t have got rid of the Civil Defence Organisation, just re-roled it…

@ Chris
Only Defenders, lannies, Discos and Range Rovers please- the rest are crap in the water. seriously, though, you need to know how to drive in deep water, and know the vehicles wading limit. Otherwise you become a problem not a help.

@ X, DavidNiven
Funny- didn’t see Sky out here in somerset, just Aunty.

Those huge dutch pumps have started…not before time frankly, and with another metre or so expected, they’ll be needed.

A slightly soggy DH (whose wellies have given way….)

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ DavidNiven

Yep.

@ david haine

Sorry about the wellies.

steve taylor
steve taylor

I wonder from where the soil came? At >large utility< we were prohibited from using spoil in sandbags used to hold down signs.

@ All

http://www.civildefence.ie/cdweb.nsf/home+page?openform
http://www.gov.im/categories/home-and-neighbourhood/emergency-services/civil-defence/

dave haine
dave haine
dave haine
dave haine

Best quote of the day-

“Things only happen when the effluent hits the affluent”

El Sid
El Sid

@Chris – there’s fewer than you might think, only about 1200 Landcruisers are sold in the UK each year, and the main Land Rover models only sell around 5000 each (except Evoque/Freelander). Subtract the ones that don’t make it out of Chelsea, and the ones owned by people who have proper jobs which mean they’re not available to pose for the TV cameras, there’s not many left.

They’re also of marginal use in conditions of rising floodwater, if you think that a river might need 10x the volume to make it from its normal stream bed before it goes over a particular road, it might only be a further 10% needed to make it inaccessible to anything smaller than a tractor, so there’s a fairly small window where the big 4×4 is more use than a car. I suspect that the average owner of a proper 4×4 also has a bit more respect for flood conditions than the average BMW driver – Beemers seem to be particularly susceptible to floods.

@Observer
The Dutch East India Company didn’t have much to do with the tulip mania. The tulip arrived in the Netherlands from Afghanistan by way of the Ottomans, before the EIC was even founded. There was an indirect effect from the Indies trade inflating the money supply, but that was all.

TAS
TAS

Buy a house on a floodplain, or next to a river, or by the sea, and feign surprise when it gets wet? WTF did they expect? The Government might be a bit crap sometimes but controlling the sea and weather is not on the job description.

And a total waste of manpower ensues. COLLINGWOOD has been cleared out to fill sandbags, cancelling or impacting on a number of essential courses by sending away the trainers. Some of these courses can only run three or four times a year. Which means we on the front line now have to bear even more shortfalls in trained people. Brilliant.

dave haine
dave haine

@ El Sid

I love watching beemers going roaring past me after driving 3 inches away from my rear bumper, only to discover a 6″ inch flood. At which point, I trundle past them in my trusty Defender, or the wife’s RAV 4, straight through the flood, no bow wave, no speeding, just steady 2nd gear progress. Even funnier, when a ancient Suzuki SJ, or a Daihatsu Sportrak goes past too. By the way, even the BMW X’s seem to be troubled by water.

No surprise that the coppers have Freelander 2s down here.

steve taylor
steve taylor

“The Government might be a bit crap sometimes but controlling the sea and weather is not on the job description.”

‘Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.’

:)

(Thank God for Wiki as I didn’t have to get a book out to type that out…………)

@ Dave Haine

Note though that is only a civilian organisation. I want to make some quip about Lord Roberts, the NSRA, and recent reforms to the TA, AR, Bob or whatever it is called but can’t think of anything

dave haine
dave haine

@ TAS

Can’t answer for the Thameside lot.

But I can tell you that, here in Somerset, if the government hadn’t stopped managing the waterways system properly to save money, or little birdies (which, ironically have mostly been drowned or starved by the floods), the flooding would have gone away by now, and the farmers whose families have been farming the same ground for centuries wouldn’t be losing their business, and ordinary working people wouldn’t be losing their homes, some of which have been there upwards of two hundred years without a problem.

Remember it took 3 weeks before anyone listened to Somerset’s requests for help, and then we got 2 RE majors, who went away, without really doing, or saying much, followed by 16 marines from 40 Commando two weeks later. In the meantime two villages have been cut off for 6 wks, three more have been cut-off subsequently, another one is about to be. We’re expect another metre in the next 24hrs, note that- a metre, not a few inches.
Now, I’m lucky, I live in the Blackmore Vale, so I’m not at risk yet (although the Stour has got a warning on its entire length), but me and others from my village, and other villages, have been across to help. So we’ve been helping each other as best we can.

So if you want to have a pop at someone- perhaps you might want to look at the various Governments and their penny-pinching. In the end, the flooded-out people didn’t come down to Collingwood, and drag the denizens thereof back up to the Thames, to fill up sandbags either, did they…the staff from there were sent by your lords and masters, (I suspect some Andrew PR chap saw a photo opportunity).

However, why send specialist staff from Portsmouth when Arborfield is nearer? Or Borden or Aldershot?
Again I wonder if some PR chap has seen a photo opportunity.

dave haine
dave haine

@ X

Indeed it is- I was trying to demonstrate the half-arsed approach in this country, in comparision to that of other countries.
Shame really because we did have a Civil Defence Organisation, albeit aimed at nuclear war- all we needed to do was re-role it to natural disasters, but of course, there was money to be saved, wasn’t there.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@x – Disappointing….I assumed you knew the King James by heart!

GNB

Phil

But I can tell you that, here in Somerset, if the government hadn’t stopped managing the waterways system properly to save money, or little birdies (which, ironically have mostly been drowned or starved by the floods), the flooding would have gone away by now, and the farmers whose families have been farming the same ground for centuries wouldn’t be losing their business, and ordinary working people wouldn’t be losing their homes, some of which have been there upwards of two hundred years without a problem.

So why didn’t anyone kick up a stink when things changed?

wf
wf

@Phil: they did. But the change of policy occurred when responsibility for drainage was passed from a local body to the EA. It’s very hard to change Whitehall’s mind without a disaster. Let’s be grateful they didn’t blow up the pumping stations as a previous head of the EA suggested.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ GNB

Supposedly it was Cnut said when he tried to turn away the sea; I was reminded by TAS’ dripping. Dripping. Water. See what I did there? No. Oh well. :( :)

dave haine
dave haine

@ Phil

I wasn’t living down here then, but the story I’ve been told is that basically the Drainage Boards weren’t given much option, the Environment Agency just told them that they were taking over the main rivers and drains, with the promise that the waterways management programme would continue as before. I believe the EA tried to do the same in the fenland but the norfolk boys weren’t having any of it.
Allegedly, there was a bit of a campaign, but as Somerset is a bit of a backwater, it didn’t really go national. Which meant it was successfully ignored. Added to the fact that the environment agency prosecuted a couple of farmers for taking matters into their own hands, and inaction is the result (hit a somerset man in his pocket!)
Mind you I think Somerset County Council bear some responsibility- the drainage boards were funded partly by them, and I think they saw an opportunity to save money. Much like Somerset Highways, who are meant to clear the drainage ditches alongside the main roads, but seem to have difficulty managing this simple task, or admitting that it is their task, or even that it needs doing.

The problem goes back to 2002, when the EA set up a study into managing the levels and moors, with partners such as the RSPCA, Natural England, Nature Conservancy Council, Campaign to Protect Rural England, oh and one Drainage Board, the NFU representative was basically shouted down every time he tried to speak. That’s when the EA decided to stop dredging, because scientific opinion felt it wasn’t needed.

Now rather than look back this what the locals want:
http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/point-plan-reduce-Somerset-Levels-flooding/story-20528163-detail/story.html

I think I’ve said before, but some locals would like to see the once navigable parts of the system restored to use, for leisure traffic (In the late 1800s the whole system carried 70,000tons in a year, largely in 6ton barges. From the port of Bridgewater, you could move goods all the way inland to Yeovil)

The other bit of impressive work has been by the dutch engineers that came over, they’ve already identified a route out for the water, which will relieve the Parrett, by using the Kings Sedgemoor Drain….and started pumping….

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@x – Cnut? Han ville have sagt det pa Dansk

Dystert Nordlige Dreng

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ GNB

Faktisk Old East Norse tror jeg ….

Hvis det ikke var for Somerset bliver lidt fugtig vi måske alle være tale dansk eller svensk eller norsk i dag …..

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@x – Touche…

GNB

Craig
Craig

@dave haine

Local Internal Drainage Boards have not had responsibility for Main Rivers since long before the Environment Agency came along. The Land Drainage Act 1930 established Catchment Boards with responsibility for Main Rivers. Catchment Boards then became River Boards in 1948, which in turn became River Authorities in 1965 and then Regional Water Authorities 1975. During the privatisation of the water industry, the 10 RWA were merged into National River Authority in 1991. The NRA then became part of the Environment Agency.

The set-up in Somerset is no different to the set-up in the Fens or Broads.

a
a

Expert opinion on floods:
http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-somerset-flooding/

“…regrettably I cannot see that dredging would make much impact in alleviating the problems in the Somerset Levels.
“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. Furthermore, the dredged bed will rapidly readjust itself with time to the natural hydraulic conditions – over a relatively short time – and one is then back to square one, i.e. more flooding and more dredging. Added to this one has climate change and rising sea levels, thereby reducing the hydraulic gradient even further and making the problem worse.
“In my view there are two effective solutions to address the real fundamental hydraulics problem: (i) raise the land, or (ii) lower the sea level and create a much larger hydraulic gradient. The first solution is not practical. The second is…”

Observer
Observer

El Cid, tulips? I was talking about their tendency to inflate profit reports and giving out high paying dividends, causing an artificial demand in the market for their stocks and ramping it sky high only to have it implode at the end. Bubble market and possible Ponzi scheme.

a, interesting idea, and I agree on the dredging, told Derek that it was not about flood control, at best dredging is about soil erosion control (oh the memories, haven’t done geography in 20 years, oxbow bend formation etc). A separation barrage might just be the ticket. Or you can go really insane and raise the land, which we did. Took decades, but at least it solved the problem…. more or less… It’s only insane and stupid if you fail. :P

Chris
Chris

a – I too think this might be the case; although dredging does provide a greater volume in drainage channels to operate as a sump, giving a slight improvement at early stages of water build up. It is also worth considering the accumulation of choke-points in undredged water courses that would slow the drainage to sea. But the rivers and drainage channels on the levels will never be rapid-flowing bodies of water. The ultimate form of high capacity dredging would be the creation of a man-made estuary, a large volume of water permanently cut into the levels…

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

One last rant before I sink beneath the waves. There is nothing more expensive than the Treasury saving money. Had a little bit more been spent each year, over the last 20 years, on flood defences, dredging, etc. we would still have flooding, but not on this scale. Now we will have much flapping about like headless chickens, but really we need emergency work plans for the Summer/Autumn, so we are not caught out again next Winter. What dredging, shoring up, drain/ditch work, needs to be done May to October? Get a plan, get it done. Raid DfID to pay for it. Get Ofwat to grow a pair & force water companies to switch some of their fat profits from dividends to new bigger drains/sewers for the next five years. While I am dubious about man made global warming, I am leaning to global weirding & think we need to be more weather proof. Not just floods, but snow, ice & droughts.

dave haine
dave haine

@ Craig
I don’t know about the Fens or the Broads. But I can tell you that in Somerset the main outflows all had their own drainage boards until the EA took over. Any work may have been done on behalf of the NRA, but it was managed and carried out by the drainage boards. My source for this is a retired neighbour who worked for one of the Drainage Boards.

@ a
Problem is, the empirical evidence demonstrates something quite different- After some flooding in the seventies, they introduced a rolling programme of dredging the Parrett and Tone as part of a wider improvement and management plan. There were consequently no floods, other than the normal winter flooding, which was expected, planned for and dealt with, and which gave the Levels and Moors something of it’s character.
In 2002, The EA decided to stop dredging based on scientific opinion, (and I suspect because one of the wildlife organisations suggested allowing two inland seas to form, ‘for the wildlife’). Ten years later when the Parrett has got to 42% of its nominal capacity, we get catastrophic flooding, for two years running.

To an extent, the expert is right, in that the Parrett only has a fall of 200mm per kilometre from Langport to the sea, and therefore is always going to be a slow moving river, tidal up to Oathe and indeed subect to ‘Tidal Lock’, this is where occasionally the incoming tide can be so strong as to push the outflow back up the river. However, years ago, the drainage boards proposed a clyce on the Parrett to prevent just such an occurance, but The EA felt it wasn’t needed, just yet.
Another thing that has got up peoples noses is the poor control of the flooding- You realise that the waterways are all interconnected, and can be controlled by a series of sluices and clyces. Well, the Huntspill river, built in the 40’s, is designed to hold a vast amount of water, as a reservoir, or release it slowly into the severn. In fact the whole waterways system can hold a massive amount of water. The Kings sedgemoor Drain can also be used to hold or take away water, and that hasn’t broke yet, with a higher fall than the Parrett.
Unfortunately for the EA, the dutch engineers that came over with those vast pumps, noticed that and are directing their pumps to put water into the Drain, rather than dump it into an already overloaded Parrett.
But, slightly further upstream, there is a sluice between the Parrett and the Drain, which has remained resolutely shut through this whole episode.

Anyway, as I said in an earlier post the locals are looking for this scheme:
http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/point-plan-reduce-Somerset-Levels-flooding/story-20528163-detail/story.html

Which seems fairly sensible to me, although it appears to have p**sed off the EA.

Observer
Observer

What is the possibility of drainage redirection into other areas like Dorset or Devon? If all the water is spread out a lot, it won’t be a flood any more. Spread it enough and it’s called a puddle. A variant of Chris’s idea, lots of sumps for water “storage”, special areas designed to flood and draw the water off from the critical areas. Possible?

Edit: Scratch that idea, Devon and Dorset are underwater too. :(

wf
wf

@Observer: the Dutch have decided to widen the flooded area by rebuilding the current levees a few hundred metres from the edge of the river. Farmers in these areas have had their farms rebuilt on “islands” and operate on the basis that their land will flood one year in 25, which seems fair enough.

With regard to Thames flooding, the water companies have been asking to build reservoirs close to London to meet increased water demand for decades. I suspect planning applications for these as part of flood defences might be looked at quite favourably now :-)

El Sid
El Sid

@Observer
Yes, tulips in 1637, a century before the VOC got into trouble – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

The Dutch didn’t even have the first East India Company, and we’d managed things like the South Sea Bubble before the VOC went pop.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@Observer/El Sid and others – British (later Honourable) East India Company 1600; Dutch East India Company 1602… probably in direct imitation/competition by one of our then closest allies…we were, you will recall, the silent partner in their 80-Year War with the Spanish Hapsburgs at the time. Although not as Silent as William, obviously…

Possibly worth adding that it was actually our oldest ally, Portugal, who started the world exploration ball rolling under King Henry the Navigator (my second favourite Portugese King after Pedro the Cruel, a friend I believe of the Black Prince)…however his people almost certainly had the benefit of close and friendly relationships with Bristol Fisherman who were catching and salting cod off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland quite early in the Fifteenth Century and clearly knew that North America was there…as had most of the Sea Kingdoms with a Viking input since Leif Erickson went a-viking that way…obviously with @x in the crew, from his grasp of Old East Norse…

Columbus probably knew where he was going from research amongst the most competent Atlantic Seafarers of his day…including us…and researching the Annales of the Icelandic and Greenland Bishops of yore in the Vatican Library.

@John Hartley – Global Weirding – quite right, one consequence of which will ultimately be stopping the Gulf Stream at which point a process of self-correction will begin with more Arctic Ice, a re-glaciation of Northern Europe (including the Highlands, and possibly some high ground further south)…resulting in excellent skiing in Northern England, and the establishment of massive ice-rinks on the Levels and Moors, and the Broads and Fens further east.

Greatly improving our chances at the Winter Olympics…

A slightly random Gloomy

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

GNB I doubt the Gulf stream will stop. Solar energy falling on equatorial seas, direction of Earth spin, means the energy has to go somewhere. However, the exact path will vary, which is what we are getting now. i.e Rain that would normally fall between the Shetlands & Faroes , is now falling on Southern England.

Chris.B.

@ a,

Those comments by the Prof from Cardiff University should be rewritten to read something more like this; “Low cost dredging wont work. What they need in Somerset is a multi-billion pound engineering project in Bridgewater Bay to solve their ills” – Says man who works for engineering firm that consults on multi-billion pound Bridgewater Bay engineering project and that would likely win contract to build said project

There, fixed for you.

Not that the idea is bad in and of itself, not least because the tidal power contribution would be very handy to have and significantly more reliable than any wind farm, but I do think it’s worth pointing out the potential for ulterior motives.

The problem with people criticising dredging as a solution is that a) they used to do a lot of dredging and it worked. It provably worked. Now they don’t and the accumulation of material in the rivers has significantly affected their capacity, and b) people opposed to dredging, or downplaying its significance, seem to have this odd habit of assuming that those in favour of dredging are not also in favour of a variety of other measures that would work with dredging to alleviate the more serious flooding issues (again, accepting that those in favour of dredging are typically aware of the fact that flooding would still happen, just in a more controlled and less destructive/disruptive manner).

The other thing that’s not mentioned (should have done a “C” really) is the question of how much material you actually remove. There is no magic number that qualifies as dredging, which if you go above becomes something else. Every cubic metre of material you remove from the river is providing space for 1000 litres/219 gallons of water (a typical long reach digger has a bucket between 0.6 and 1.5 cubic metres capacity). Do enough digging, especially if you combine that with raises to the banks, and you can create a hell of a lot of extra space for some of that rainwater.

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