Walton: Bid to clear popular waterway

PLANS to clear a popular waterway that is under threat from the build-up of silt have been welcomed by sailors and fishermen.

A survey by Harwich Haven Authority (HHA) revealed water depths in the Walton Backwaters had reduced to as low as 50cm, making it more difficult for vessels to pass through at low tides.

The Backwaters includes tidal creeks, mudflats, islands and salt marshes and is home to Titchmarsh Marina with room for 400 berths.

Local stakeholders have teamed up to try to find a solution to the immediate problem and a plan for the future to prevent it happening again.

Representatives from the Environment Agency, Tendring District Council, HHA, Titchmarsh Marina, Walton Fairways Committee, Natural England and local yachtsmen met for talks on July 13.

Following the meeting, it was decided HHA will hold talks with its contractors to see whether a dredging operation can be used to create a passageway for yachts and other boats, while the Environment Agency has pledged to seek out mapping information that might help to identify the extent of the problem.

John Fletcher, from Walton Fairways Committee which represents sailors and commercial boats, said: “The channel has been narrowing far quicker than anyone anticipated.

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“It is still possible for boats to pass through a couple of hours either side of low water, but the immediate priority is to clear it.

“We are very grateful for the work that has been done by the Harwich Haven Authority and we are all working together to find a solution.

“We have issued notices to our mariners as we don’t want them to become grounded, but we also don’t want to scare people that they can’t get through these waters at all.”

In March, the Community & Conservation Trust brought the issue to the public’s attention, claiming shingle which was building up around Stone Point could eventually close one of the channels.

They said the buoyed channel was significantly shallower than indicated on up-to-date charts and commercial angling skippers had occasionally been grounded on entry.

The HHA shared the results of their survey, which was carried out in consultation with the Hamford Water Management Committee, at the end of June. It revealed low depths where a bar had formed across a pinch-point in the channel.

Council leader Neil Stock said the Walton Backwaters was a vital part of the district’s leisure offering.

“We will encourage and work with the various partners to come up with a solution to the silting-up of the channel which leads to both Titchmarsh Marina and Walton and Frinton Yacht Club,” he said.

“It is important that yachtsmen and boat owners are able to access and exit this area as freely as possible.”

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