A NEW bid to prevent winter flooding in West Yorkshire was launched today.
Staff from the Environment Agency have started a huge scheme to check for possible blockages along 300 kilometres of West Yorkshire’s rivers.
They will be walking the banks to inspect the watercourses, looking for the kind of objects that could cause flooding problems by blocking the channel or trapping more debris and building up a dam.
The hazards can be natural ones, such as fallen trees that have been washed downstream, or man-made problems such as abandoned vehicles or flytipped waste like fridges and furniture.
The Environment Agency’s operations staff will tour all the main watercourses between November and March and remove those obstructions that can safely be pulled out of the river.
However objects such as trees and large flytipped items cannot be easily or safely dealt with, so staff have to return with lifting equipment at a later date.
The move comes in the wake of terrible flooding in parts of the UK, notably Cumbria, and flood alerts on rivers in West Yorkshire.
Agency staff are monitoring river levels along the Calder through Mirfield and Dewsbury and both Fenay Beck and Batley Beck, as well as the Rivers Colne and Holme.
Peter Holmes, operations manager for the Environment Agency, said: “We keep an eye on watercourses throughout the year looking for potential flooding problems, but in the winter we carry out intensive inspections.
“Sometimes we can clear blockages easily from the bank, but there are lots of other things that need more time and care.
“For example, large trees need to be carefully lifted from the channel and cut up into moveable chunks. Dumped vehicles can cause serious pollution problems if the petrol tank ruptures or oil escapes, so we need to be very careful there. Sometimes we find potentially dangerous waste such as unlabelled drums or clinical waste that needs to be removed very carefully and investigated so it can be disposed of properly. And of course there are always the ever-present shopping trolleys.”
He said the channel clearance work was essential to prevent flooding, but it is costly and time-consuming.
Mr Holmes said: “The build up of waste in our rivers is not just unsightly, it can also greatly increase the risk of flooding.
“We can all do our bit by disposing of waste correctly, but if people do spot large obstructions that could result in flooding they can ring our incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.”
The riverbank inspections are part of an annual system of programmed checks.
Environment Agency Operations staff have already conducted CCTV inspections of underground culverts on key parts of the area’s river network, and removed potential blockages.
Heavy rain returned to flood-ravaged Cumbria yesterday as fears grew over the future of a key bridge.
Up to 3.9in (100mm) of rain was predicted to fall on already saturated ground, raising river levels and putting the emergency services on flood alert throughout the day.
Cumbria County Council said Calva Bridge, which has been declared unsafe and carries a number of cables, has dropped “several inches” and warned Workington residents that if it collapses, 11,000 homes north of the river will lose their telephone connections.
Six bridges have already collapsed, causing major transport and logistical headaches for thousands of people.
Meanwhile, a young woman believed to have been swept away by a storm-swollen river was named by police as Kirsty Jones, 21, who went into the fast-flowing River Usk, near Watergate Bridge, in Brecon, Mid Wales, on Saturday evening.