Humber flood defence plan looks 100 years into future

A £1bn project to protect the Humber tidal estuary from flooding as sea levels rise over the next century got an initial go-ahead from the Environment Agency on Wednesday.

The EA wants to adapt defences along the vast 90,000 hectare floodplain to a predicted sea level rise of 0.3m over the next 50 years. The sea level in the estuary is already going up at 1.8mm per year, with the annual rate expected to average 6mm over the next 100 years.

£1bn would pay for setting parts of the existing defences back, as well as maintaining the defences, monitoring and reviews. Assets contained in the floodplain are worth more than £7bn, according to the EA.

Philip Winn, the EA’s Humber Strategies Manager, said: “We’ve cleared the first hurdle as far as this project is concerned. …”

“We will now be starting detailed work on the highest priority schemes in order to increase protection to the communities most at risk as soon as we can.”

A total of 300,000 people live in the area of the Humber currently protected by flood defences. The estuary also houses wildlife habitats of international importance, such as mudflats that serve as feeding grounds for rare wader birds.

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency said: “Large parts of Hull, Grimsby, Cleethorpes, Immingham and Goole lie within the tidal floodplain, along with major industrial and commercial properties and the country’s largest port complex.”

“About 85% of the floodplain is farmed and it also contains places important for their historic and conservation value.

“As any work undertaken in or near the estuary could have an effect on sites of environmental significance, issues are being addressed through the Coastal Habitat Management Plan as part of the strategy.”

The Humber flood strategy needs to be approved by Defra and the Treasury before construction can begin.

By Goska Romanowicz

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