UK & World News
Dredging Of Somerset Levels To Start In March
River dredging could begin on the Somerset Levels in March, the Environment Agency (EA) has confirmed.
Work will start on a five-mile (8km) river channel where the Tone and Parrett meet at Burrowbridge as soon as it is safe.
A 200-metre stretch of the river Parrett north of Coates Farm has also been earmarked as the EA looks to prevent the kind of flooding that has devastated the Levels this winter.
The announcement comes amid Met Office confirmation that it has been the wettest winter since records began in 1910.
The UK has seen 486.8mm of rain so far - beating the 485.1mm record set in 1995.
Residents in Somerset who have suffered as a result of this heavy rain have previously accused the EA and Government of ignoring repeated calls for dredging, an excavation process that can improve river flow.
Some of those victims welcomed news that dredging would soon begin.
Bryony Sadley, from the Flooding on the Levels Action Group, said: "It can only be positive, it is a great step forward and something we have been pushing for for such a long time."
The areas set for dredging were identified by local people after significant silt build-up.
Dredging will start once water levels drop and the banks are dry enough for excavators to work safely.
EA chief executive Paul Leinster said: "We plan to start dredging by the end of March, as long as the contractors deem it is safe to do so.
"We are committed to dredging as part of a broader package of work to protect people, property and land in Somerset."
Two severe flood warnings remain in place on the Levels.
Some 65 pumps are attempting to remove millions of tonnes of water every day as part of the country's largest ever pumping operation.
Floods Minister Dan Rogerson said: "Today marks a crucial step forwards in ensuring local communities around the Somerset Levels are better protected from the devastating impact of floods.
"We know those affected are tired and fed up but I can assure them we are working around the clock to clear the flood water so they can get on with their lives."
A 20-year plan of action commissioned by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson will be presented in early March.
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