The Kennet is one of 43 rivers on flood alert in the south west — with the ironic result that last night’s storm will delay the completion of the flood protection project in Kennet Place, Marlborough.
Two artificial dams created to allow the arduous work to proceed have had to be removed following the opening of the sluice gates to Coopers Meadow, to ensure the faster flow of water.
The Kennet Place section of the river is already a metre deep putting work on the £233,000 project on hold. And it will probably remain so with another deluge expected over the weekend.
The Environment Agency, which planned the project, issued its flood alert, one of 43 in the south-west, on Thursday. It affects the River Kennet and its tributaries from Berwick Bassett down to Newbury, including Winterbourne Monkton, Marlborough, Ramsbury, Hungerford, Denford, Kintbury and Newbury.
It also covers the River Og, the River Aldbourne, the Froxfield Stream, the River Dun and the River Shalbourne.
But with the aquadams having been removed from the river, there ought not to be “any real risk,” says the Agency.
“The dam in Kennet Place was the first to be emptied and removed, the one above the fish pass was next,” Kennet Place resident Val Compton, told Marlborough News Online. “Until now they had served their purpose, but the purpose has changed, now flood prevention has overridden everything.”
“For the first time ever we now have water flowing over the newly created fish pass. The first aquadam emptied out and deflated, lying limply like a huge wounded black dragon of the river.”
“It seemed almost sad — but within a few days in can hopefully be refilled and re-deployed to allow work to continue.”
“Next, upstream above town mill bridge, the aquadam that has been in place since work started on the fish pass was deflated. This was the really exciting one, as water flowed for the first time ever over the new creation.”
“It was a dramatic moment as the dam began to empty and the weight of a mini tidal wave then pushed the dam to one side and came crashing over the steps of the fish pass.”
“The noise, although a different tone entirely to the old mill race, was nevertheless music to my ears.”
“To see the river alive once more and flowing as it should was such a relief – if only temporary – but this is how it will look when we have peak flows.”
Marlborough police reported that a number of trees in the area were uprooted by last night’s storm. All roads are now clear and open and there have been no reported injuries to people.
Meanwhile, the Environment Agency has issued a statement on the progress of the flood alleviation project, which is jointly financed by the Agency, Wiltshire Council and Marlborough town council.
“The project is progressing well and we aim to have the majority of works completed before the end of December,” it revealed. “We will then have the final landscaping finished by late January/early February, weather permitting.
“If there are any changes to this we will ensure resident are kept informed.
“In terms of project progression, we have now completed the piling work along the riverbank. During this work we constantly monitored the level of noise and vibrations and I hope that we were successful in minimising disturbance to local residents.”
“We are now in the process of ensuring the area around the line of piles is kept dry to allow our workers to safely begin installing the cladding for the flood wall.”
“This cladding will include timber panels so that the flood wall fits in with the aesthetics of the area. In addition we will also begin installing non-return valves to the drainage outfalls which enter the channel along Kennet Place.”
“These valves allow water to drain into the channel but close as the river level increases and so prevent flood water from escaping. We aim to have the cladding and valves completely installed before Christmas.”
Marlborough has escaped the worst of the deluge weather station records reveal
With yet more rain forecast, the current downpours are reminiscent of the autumn of 2000 when the River Kennet over-flowed its banks and created localised flooding.
Those are the facts according to Eric Gilbert, who runs Marlborough’s only weather station. But he still points that that Marlborough may, as in the past, escape the worst of the predicted deluge.
“Marlborough has been fortunate in that the extreme rainfall that has fallen to the west and north of Wiltshire, and elsewhere, has not occurred here,” he told Marlborough News Online.
“The daily record for my station — some 45.4mm – fell on 27 May 2007. And we haven’t reached that peak yet.”
“In October, November and December of 2000 rainfall totals were very high at 150mm compared with 121mm in 2012, 143mm (92mm so far in 2012), and 142mm, which is 169 per cent of the long-term average, an overall excess of 178mm, the equivalent of seven inches over three months.
“In the year 2000, the total rainfall for the year was 1,097mm and, to date in 2012, a total of 919mm has fallen,” he added. “We shall have to wait to see what happens.”