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Groups slam ‘out of touch’ and ‘under-funded’ Environment Agency for failing to fix River Welland breach as Spalding river levels remain low

Organisations which rely on a thriving River Welland say the ‘under-funded’ Environment Agency is ‘out of touch’ for allowing low water levels to persist — more than six months on from a breached bank.

Both Welland Yacht Club and Peterborough and District Angling Association (P&DAA) are continuing to take a hit while repairs to the large hole in the river bank on the outskirts of Crowland continue to be delayed.

The bank collapsed in the aftermath of Storm Henk in January and sent river water surging through the breach onto agricultural field beyond. Since then, the EA has kept the water levels low in Spalding town centre — with the river bed visible.

The River Welland's bed can be seen as water levels remain low six months after Storm Henk
The River Welland's bed can be seen as water levels remain low six months after Storm Henk

Spalding Water Taxi will not be running at all this year due to incredibly low level of the river — and anglers fear the current situation has wiped out spawning season and could damage a fishery so famous that it has attracted world champions to the area.

It’s also understood that low water levels can affect the ecology of the river — and lead to pollutants becoming more concentrated.

Welland Yacht Club now fears that repairs will not start until the autumn due to the arrival of nesting birds but the EA says it is looking at what action it can take to increase the river levels in and around Spalding.

A spokesman said: “With prompt action the EA could have provided a temporary repair very early on whilst a full plan was put together but for whatever reason they decided not to do this.

“It feels to the club the EA is too large and is completely out of touch with the needs of this area.

“The local council and other organisations are keen to see our local waterways being used more but until something is done about the EA, this is not going to happen. We would call on the local council and our MP to put pressure on the EA to start and complete these works now for the benefit of the town.”

Looking back: The impact of Storm Henk on Lincolnshire

Rob Harris, chairman of the P&DAA, also feels that the EA needs to get on with the repairs.

He said: “I wouldn’t say the EA is too large - I would say it is critically underfunded and structurally inadequate.

“They need the right funding, the right people to do the right job at the right time.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “We have had an assessment of the site and there are now nesting birds in the breach location. We are looking at how this affects the works, as all nesting birds are protected.

“The river levels are impacted by the breach in the embankment that damaged the berm. We are preventing further water seeping through the breach and looking at what works we can do to enable us to raise the water level higher. We may be able to do so before the breach is fixed.”

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