By Kate MaxwellWATER-SKIERS who have been accused of causing environmental damage to a river have said they do not think their sport was to blame.Sian Mortlock, who founded the Southwold Water-Ski Club with her husband Vince, said she thought it was unlikely the wash from speedboats was the cause of erosion along the banks of the River Blyth above the Bailey Bridge because there were few opportunities to water-ski there.
By Kate Maxwell
WATER-SKIERS who have been accused of causing environmental damage to a river have said they do not think their sport was to blame.
Sian Mortlock, who founded the Southwold Water-Ski Club with her husband Vince, said she thought it was unlikely the wash from speedboats was the cause of erosion along the banks of the River Blyth above the Bailey Bridge because there were few opportunities to water-ski there.
“I've skied there all my life. We founded the water-ski club when there was a threat to put a speed limit on that bit of river,” she added.
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“We've never policed the river, only told people to stick to the zone which is marked by signs, but when I started a family, the club sort of fizzled out. It seemed a bit pointless carrying on having meetings every month for nothing.”
Mrs Mortlock, from Reydon, said the opportunities for water-skiing on the river were few and far between as it depended on a coincidence of high tide at noon on a sunny and warm weekend for the prospect to hold any attraction.
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“Last year I only made it out twice. Most of the people who used to do it don't even have boats now,” she added.
“If speedboats were causing erosion, I would be concerned. I live here and love the place, but I'd like to know if it is the speedboats causing the damage. A lot of other boats use the river too.”
The water-skiers were defending their sport after Graham and Judy Hay Davison, of the River Blyth Navigation Association, expressed concerns the wash from 40mph speedboats was undercutting the mudbanks of the river, causing large chunks to be washed away.
“Since water-skiing was banned on the Norfolk Broads, people are coming here at weekends and it's a real problem,” said Mr Hay Davison.
“In one place the banks have eroded almost to the sea wall. One high winter tide and the water will go through and flood Tinker's Marshes, and that would be the end of it. It would become a saltmarsh.”
Waveney District Council has the navigational rights to Southwold Harbour, which has a speed limit of four knots.
But Dave Jessop, facilities manager of the council's community and operations department, said its powers ceased at the Bailey Bridge, just upriver from the harbour, and the navigation authority of that stretch was most likely to be the Environment Agency.
“We're certainly not involved above the Bailey Bridge. We know there is some unofficial boating up there and occasionally people are not particularly helpful by tearing around and upsetting everyone,” he added.
“We did try to form a club to have some control, but that disbanded. We could prevent it by stopping people using our slipways to launch their boats, but once they are on the water, we cannot do much because we don't have the navigation rights and so can't impose a speed limit.
“Even if it was banned, it would be impossible to police and enforce without bylaws, and we don't have the power to make bylaws. I'm not aware there's a problem, but if there is, we'd need to look at it again.”
A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said the River Blyth was classed as a “miscellaneous waterway” and Waveney District Council was the navigation authority on the river.