Europe’s largest flood storage and habitat creation scheme created

While areas such as Carlisle are busy strengthening flood defences amid warnings of increased flooding frequency, work has begun on removing all existing flood barriers at Alkborough Flats to create Europe's largest flood storage and habitat scheme.

Over the next two years 440 hectares of agricultural land alongside the Humber will be returned to the estuary through the removal of existing flood defences and at a cost of £10.2 million.

When finished, the scheme will lower the highest tide levels throughout the upper part of the estuary, delaying the need to raise other defences by about 10 to 15 years. Water will be allowed to flood the farmland creating an inter-tidal habitat which will be developed as a new National Nature Reserve.

The Environment Agency and English Nature began buying up the land from its 11 different owners in 2000. Several of the previous land owners are now involved in developing the project.

The first phase of the work starting now includes constructing new channels to allow water to flow around the site, a small new defence to protect a sewage treatment works, and a large freshwater reedbed at the southern end.

The second phase will begin in 2006 and will include erosion protection works and building breaches in the current defences.

Sir John Harman, Chairman of the Environment Agency said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership in this way by commencing work on the largest estuary flood storage and habitat creation scheme in Europe. By returning agricultural land to the Humber estuary at Alkborough, we will be providing major benefits to the biodiversity of this internationally important nature conservation area as well as reducing the risk of flooding brought about by sea-level rise.”

Overall, the Agency is planning to spend more than £60 million in the next 10 years on a combination of traditional flood defences and managed realignment.

By David Hopkins

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