December 10 2013 Latest news:
By Emma Brennan
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
WILDLIFE enthusiasts have criticised the Environment Agency for leaving the sluice gates on a west Suffolk river open after heavy rain had ceased.
Last May, the agency promised a review of its procedures after wildlife in a mill stream off the river Stour in Sudbury was put at risk when staff left a sluice gate open for several days, leaving the stream virtually empty of water. The incident led to dozens of fish deaths.
But on Monday, members of the local Swan Watch group expressed concerns that the gates had again been left open following a period of heavy rain last week – despite a break in the wet weather and drier spells being forecast.
When the gates are closed, water is channelled toward a mill pond via the mill stream. If water levels rise, the gates are opened to allow water to flow out of the river and control flooding.
Group member Roy Spicer said he was disappointed that “nothing had changed” in the way the Environment Agency operated the gate.
He said: “I called them on Monday morning at 6.30am to warn them that the water levels were dropping and that there were dry shingle areas already appearing on some banks. By the time the duty flood officer got back to me later in the day, the water had dropped by 3ft.
“What concerns me is that they still didn’t seem to be willing to accept that this could cause a problem for the wildlife and I was told they only had a few staff working over New Year so they would be unlikely to come out and close the gates.” He added: “It is alarming how quickly we could get into a situation where the mill stream is empty again and it’s very disappointing that nothing has been learnt from the incident in May.”
A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency told the EADT that operation of the sluice gate was part of the agency’s work to “manage flood risk to property”.
She added: “As the river levels have been high in recent weeks, the gates have been left open to let the water through on to the meadows.
“We are expecting a few drier days so it is likely we will look at closing them again over the next few days. We will certainly be monitoring the situation very closely and then a decision will be taken on when to close the gates.”