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Flood Defence Somerset Floods - 30 Years On!

This week's wet and windy weather co-incides with the anniversary of one of the worst flood events to ever hit Avon and Somerset.

13th December 1981

On December 13, 1981 storm force winds blasted up the Bristol Channel and combined with high tides to cause widespread coastal flooding. The resulting tidal surge overtopped sea defences and sent water pouring into more than 1,000 homes and businesses and left 12,500 acres of land underwater. The floodwater even reached the M5 motorway.

Miraculously there was no loss of human life, but there were livestock casualties including 2,500 sheep, cattle and pigs that couldn’t be rescued in time. More than 20,000 chickens also drowned in the floodwater.

It is estimated the ‘Floods of 81’ caused more than £6 million damage to sea defences along the coastline between Clevedon and Porlock. The flooding co-incided with the highest tidal surge ever recorded on the Somerset coastline in the previous 100 years.

Among the worst affected communities was Burnham-on-Sea where the storm ripped up pavements, tore stone and concrete from the sea wall and promenade and flooded 400 properties in the town and surrounding area. Since these floods the Environment

Since the Floods more that £60M has been spent

Agency has spent more than £60 million improving coastal defences

in Avon and Somerset and is working hard to reduce flood risk and ensuring our defences can meet the challenges of climate change including rising sea levels and more extreme weather events. Improvements completed since 1981 include a £12.7 million flood defence scheme at Minehead, a £7 million scheme at Burnham-on-Sea, a £3.2 million scheme to protect properties on low-lying land at Clevedon, a £2.7 million scheme to improve tidal embankments on the River Parrett.

More recently a £27 million flood defence scheme was successfully completed at Weston- super-Mare. The project was led by North Somerset Council and part-funded by the Environment Agency. At today’s prices the total cost of works carried out since 1981 is approximately £100 million. The Agency has started preliminary works on a pioneering habitat creation scheme on the Steart Peninsula near Bridgwater to help offset ‘coastal squeeze’ caused by tidal defences on the Severn Estuary and rising sea levels. It is also a partner in the Pathfinder Project to raise awareness and help local communities adapt to coastal change. The project is led by Somerset Council and funded by Defra.

Maintaining Flood defences on the Thames

Specialists in long reach excavators • 12 to 26m reach • 18 to 90 tonnes

The Environment Agency is responsi- ble for maintaining its flood defence structures to safeguard against the risks of tidal flooding.

These are challenging projects that can involve the installation of new control gates and associated tempo- rary works. Site constraints on a par- ticular scheme meant that the method for the temporary cofferdam was key to the success of the project, with a need for specialist plant.

WM Plant Hire used a long reach ex- cavator to firstly re-profile the channel and then fit an EMV (excavator mounted vibrator) attachment to drive the sheet piles, weighing up to 2 tonnes. This machine was also used to place the backfill material, excavate inside the cofferdam and ensure its safe removal.

...reaching out tel: +44 (0)1746 769555 • web: 10

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