Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Association of Drainage Authorities (IW 77)


  The Internal Drainage Board members of the Association have an acute interest in the effective management of rivers, many of which are used for navigational purposes. This is particularly the case with the Rivers Great Ouse, Welland and Nene which pass through low lying areas including land significantly below sea level and upon which their management in terms of flood protection and land drainage is crucial.

  At the present time the navigation on these rivers is in the control of the Environment Agency who are able to control water levels in a way which facilitates that use at the same time, and most importantly, ensures that the often complex arrangements are operated in such a way that flood risk is minimised. Many of the water level control structures on these and other rivers combine to provide both navigational passage and flood water discharge and to contemplate a division of the river management across these services would be a most retrograde step.

  Whilst I would not underestimate the importance of navigation it is very much a minority interest compared to those with an interest in flood risk which is an all year round concern rather than seasonal activity. It therefore follows that the single body managing the navigable rivers should be that with the flood risk responsibility this being the Environment Agency on its main river system and Internal Drainage Boards as with the Middle Level Commissioners where they are established as the navigation authority.

  Considering the recent and widespread flooding events it becomes more important that rivers are managed in a way which seeks to reduce flood risk and transferring of this responsibility to a body with a primary navigation interest would send quite the wrong signal to property and landowners who seek a more, rather than less, focused attention given to flood management.

  The Association are strongly opposed to any dilution in the management of rivers for flood protection which would occur if changes to the present arrangements were made.

David Noble

Chief Executive

20 November 2000

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