31 July 2012
The recent torrential rainfall in South West England and consequent flooding across the Somerset Levels and Moors has been exceptional for this time of year and Natural England continues to work with farmers and partner organisations to help manage the consequences for wildlife and farming businesses.
Jointly with the Environment Agency, we have now contacted all farmers on Wet Moor, West Moor, West Sedge Moor, Moorlinch and North Moor offering support, advice and contact points.
In recognition of the cash flow issues being experienced by farmers, we have prioritised the next Environmental Stewardship (ES) agreement partial payments to Levels & Moors farmers, so that they will be paid at the earliest possible opportunity.
On Curry & Hay Moor we have now issued derogations to most of the affected farmers. These will enable Agri-Environment Scheme payments to continue, whilst allowing land management requirements that normally apply under agreements and SSSI designation to be lifted. This action reflects the current situation where operations such as hay-making and grazing are not feasible and allow works to aid recovery of the area.
Information on derogations to support farmers coping with wet weather has been published on the Natural England website
If any farmers have outstanding capital claims for Environmental Stewardship agreements, then please submit them promptly (with the relevant receipted invoices) and we will ensure these are prioritised too. For Environmentally Sensitive Area agreements, claims will be paid on or just after 16 October (the earliest possible date) so long as claims are received by mid- September.
In recent weeks, Phil Shere of the Environment Agency and Claire Stride of Natural England have met with almost all of the farmers and landowners, whose land has been flooded on Curry and Hay Moors.
Any affected farmer who would like to talk to Phil or Claire can contact Phil Shere (Environment Agency’s Lead Agricultural Advisor for the South West region) on 07792878577 or email email@example.com or Claire Stride (Natural England’s Lead Adviser for Curry Moor), on 07831617656 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday 15th August, the following situation update was issued by the Environment Agency:
We have continued to pump with hydrogen peroxide being deployed at both the Long Load and Huish Episcopi pumping stations, with Midleney having been switched to automatic operation
The water levels have been gradually reducing and we have achieved summer levels but recharge has brought the levels back up slightly. We are aiming to increase the pumping tomorrow at Long Load to further reduce to winter levels but as ever this will be dependent on dis-solved oxygen levels.
To assist with this and with river flow in the Yeo Wessex Water are continuing to release water from Sutton Bingham reservoir to support our pumping.
On Wednesday 1st August, the following situation update was issued by the Environment Agency:
We have now shut down the pumping at Long Load and are concentrating on pumping at Huish Episcopi.
The reason is that the river environment is very sensitive to poor quality water from the moors entering the rivers and generally can only cope with input from one pumping station. Focussing our efforts again at Huish Episcopi will give the River Yeo a rest and time to recover.
Pumping started at Huish Episcopi this morning and will be continuing this for two hours at a time, with an hour’s interval between sessions, when the pumping will stop to allow the river ‘to rest’ and to gauge its response. We are closely monitoring the dissolved oxygen levels and will look to increasing the pumping rate if possible.
We have deployed flow balls at Oath and Monk’s Leaze and are using aeration equipment and hydrogen peroxide to support our pumping and are currently monitoring dissolved oxygen levels at 18 different sites.
On Monday 30th July, the following situation update was issued by the Environment Agency:
We are continuing with the gravitational drainage at Long Load which today will be supplemented with intermittent pumping hoping to try and reduce the water levels more quickly.
The water recharge rate is faster at Long Load than at Midleney or Huish Episcopi due to water entering the system from watercourses on Witcombe Bottom and Kingsmoor sides of the river Yeo so we have been concentrating our efforts here.
This drainage is being supported at Long Load with the continued use of hydrogen peroxide to tackle low dissolved oxygen (DO) levels and the use of aeration equipment, including using weed cutting boats both to agitate and aerate the water and to monitor DO levels.
On Friday we negotiated with Wessex Water the release of water from their South Bingham reservoir to increase the low flows in the river to augment the dilution of the very poor quality water that we are discharging into the river.
The River Brue system is managed by natural drainage not by pumps and due to low dissolved oxygen levels on the Brue we have dropped the sluice at Hackness in order to pen water and improve DO’s.
Although there is still water laying in the Godney area the levels have dropped back to those normally found in the summer with improving water quality.
We are planning an aerial survey later today of the moors and levels to assess the impact and progress of our operation to date.
In the meantime, we continue to deploy both local and staff and equipment from other areas of the country and to work as hard as we can to re-solve the situation.