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Aldeburgh: Expert study to ponder fate of flooded wetland

13:15 11 March 2014

Flooding at Hazelwood Marshes

Flooding at Hazelwood Marshes

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A scientific study has been launched to examine the long-term impact of flooding to coastal wetlands.

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Although most of the defences breached in the Alde and Ore Estuary by December’s tidal surge were quickly rectified, extensive damage is still to be resolved at Hazelwood Marsh – a protected freshwater reserve near Aldeburgh, owned by Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) .

The marshes remain flooded after the river wall suffered two severe breaches on December 6, while extensive ‘back slips’ rendered the landward wall useless as a flood defence.

The Alde and Ore Estuary Partnership (AOEP) has commissioned an independent study by coastal, estuarine and marine environment expert, Professor Ken Pye, to explore the possible implications of repairing – or not repairing – the breached walls.

Results of the research, funded by the Alde and Ore Association, should be available later this month.

Sir Edward Greenwell, AOEP chairman, said: “Our concern is that if no action is taken, the velocity and volume of water in the estuary created by this damage may have a detrimental effect on other flood cells.”

After the flooding, the Environment Agency (EA) said the damage was likely to cost more than a million pounds to repair, and that it was discussing the site’s future with Natural England and the SWT.

The AOEP is hoping a decision will soon be made on the agreed option, but admits that, even if funding can be agreed, up to two years is needed to dry the clay, build the wall, allow for settlement and finalise the build.

One option under consideration is building a reduced height and length of wall some 30 metres inside the original wall to allow occasional ‘overtopping’ and enable the establishment of an intertidal habitat similar to those on Havergate Island.

No decision will be taken until all research has been completed and funding is secured, but the AOEP insists that some work will have to be done to protect private water supplies and houses that border the marsh.

The partnership is drawing up an estuary-wide plan for future upgrading and maintenance of the river walls. It will be available at the group’s annual meeting on May 8.

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