Over 3,000 hectares of the Norfolk Broads at Halvergate Marshes will have water levels raised so that the wetlands are preserved and enough water can be stored there to ensure an adequate supply even during drought years.

Work has been taking place over the summer and is now mostly complete. It should be fully operational by next summer, officials say.

Elliot Morley, Minister for climate change and environment said: “Effective water level management is crucial to wetland preservation, and that’s why Defra is providing up to £2.5 million extra to help internal drainage boards introduce measures in areas like the Halvergate Marshes, as well as making funding available under Environmental Stewardship to farmers and landowners who bring land into water level management projects.”

The Halvergate project is being carried out by the Broads Internal Drainage Board, part of Kings Lynn Consortium of Internal Drainage Boards, with assistance from English Nature. It is the first time that any environmental priority scheme has received 100% funding from Defra under new grant arrangements.

In addition, raised water levels mean that landowners stand to gain from the Higher Payments under Defra’s Environmental Stewardship.

During the early 1980s, parts of Halvergate Marshes were drained and converted to arable agriculture, the controversy over which led to the Norfolk Broads being reclassified as an Environmentally Sensitive Area.

Les Wright, Clerk to the King’s Lynn Consortium of Internal Drainage Boards said: “Currently, the area is reliant on rainfall and water from the River Bure, which is let in manually, but this is not sufficient to sustain the water levels required, particularly during times of drought. Following the dry years in the 1990s it was obvious that there was a need to take action to ensure that the water needs of all were met.”

The project will see the automation of the inlet from the River Bure and the widening of two feeder dykes.

David Hopkins

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