The Wallasea Island Wetlands Project 19 Oct 2005
DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) gave a very informative presentation at our club on 30th September, about the new wetlands project on Wallasea Island. The project is well advanced and the purpose of the meeting was to inform interested parties in the Burnham community and answer any questions of those with concerns about the scheme. With a full house on our first floor, there were many questions following the very professional talk and visual display.
The policy of the government is not to maintain our coastal defences, except around areas of population and property, such as Burnham and the existing sea wall on the south shore is collapsing where there is no mud flat in front of it. Furthermore the European court ruled that the government was wrong in having allowed the expansion of Felixstowe docks without providing compensating wetlands for the wild life that was evicted. Consequently the wetlands project along the Wallasea shores of the Crouch and Roach came about. A new sea defence in the form of compacted excavated material has been formed further inland, which can be seen from the club and six large breaches will be made in the existing sea wall, one of which will be opposite us. This will create a suitable salt water environment for visiting birds such as Curlew, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and Dunlin, as well as a habitat for rare plants insects and fish. A fresh water environment is also being formed for the Avocets that already live in the area to be flooded. There will be walkways for the public to enjoy the habitat and we can still go ashore at any place, particularly the beach just before Branklet Spit.
What does this mean for us: DEFRA seem confident that the increased tidal flow in our rivers will be a maximum of 0.1 knots during springs and 0.07 on neaps, due to the additional water that needs to flow up and down the river, to flood and drain the wetland area, so presumably there will be little or no change to the tidal speed upstream of Burnham or in the Roach. The breaches will be large enough to stop the water ripping through them and DEFRA assured the meeting that their calculations left them convinced that the wetland area would receive a net gain in any silt and not deposit into the rivers.
There will be a lot of activity opposite the club this winter (2005/6), our outer mooring trot will be taken out between November and Easter, to form a fairway for shipping, whilst a barge will be secured to the sea bed with ‘spuds’ (legs), to form a rigid pipeline connection to the shore. Each day between 10th November until Christmas and from the end of February until Easter, a large ship will arrive from Harwich, full of mud, which will be pumped ashore between the old and new sea walls, a non return valve will ensure that mud does not back flow into the river when the pipeline is disconnected from the ship. This will form the mudflats, within which will be formed naturally vegetated, cockle shell and gravel capped islands as well as low water catchment pools. The mud has been tested and is completely clear of contaminants, it will not be coming from the main fairways at Felixstowe and Harwich.
The site when completed will be under the protection of the RSPB and so anything that may disturb the birds such as housing development on the island and any nearby airport, will no doubt be strongly resisted.