THE Environment Agency (EA) has come under fire again in recent weeks after ‘devastating’ an intimate little river in the name of flood defence.
Anglers responded with anger and dismay at the ecological ravaging of a 250m stretch of Somerset’s River Tone. The banks of the waterway beside Hankridge Water Park, Taunton, were left totally stripped of vegetation, leaving only tree stumps and bare earth.
“I felt physically sick when I saw it and was put in the bizarre position of phoning the EA’s emergency hotline to report its own staff!” said Angling Times’ Dom Garnett, who’s fished the stretch for 20 years. “I used to love watching chub and kingfishers here, now it’s all gone.”
Underwater filmmaker Mark Barrow also commented on the work as: “Complete devastation, courtesy of the EA. Scorched earth work the Russian army would be proud of!” Meanwhile, local angler Marcin Dabkowsky reported that within 48 hours of the work, cormorants were already plundering fish stocks left defenceless by the wholesale removal of natural cover.
As the story spread like wildfire across national news titles and media, the EA responded by saying it was “essential work to manage flood risk and protect properties,” adding, “we always work to minimise impact to the environment when carrying out work.” It said that new trees would be planted, along with “wildflower seed mix”.
“This is a ludicrous, late response and I just don’t buy it,” said Dom. “The horse has not just bolted the stable in this case, but shot dead in front of us. I understand the need for flood management, but it simply doesn’t have to be this utterly brutal,” he added.
“The consultation process and level of environmental care have been woeful. It isn’t acceptable. The area’s flood risks have been exacerbated by years of ill-planned developments, including a giant retail park where there were once natural marshes. Why does nature always have to pay?”
Martin Salter, from the Angling Trust, was equally scathing: “It’s hugely frustrating to see the EA’s fisheries and flood defence departments pulling in completely opposite directions. Yes, the agency has a responsibility with flood risks, but it also has a statutory duty to maintain and improve our rivers. You don’t do that by removing vital habitat for fish and other wildlife.”