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Concerns over high water levels on Canvey nature reserve
3:00pm Monday 11th February 2013 in Local News
A BUILD-UP of water at a Canvey nature reserve has prompted concern from councillors.
Weeks of heavy rainfall has meant huge volumes of surface water has been reported at the RSPB West Canvey Marsh off Canvey Road, causing concern it is not being properly drained.
Water levels on the island must be carefully monitored as the whole of Canvey is classified as a flood risk zone by the Environment Agency, meaning it is likely to suffer major flooding from rivers and seas if defences were not in place.
Dave Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Independent Party, said: “A lot of people are complaining about it because the water is far too high over there. In all my life I’ve never seen it so full of water.
“I appreciate the RSPB wants to attract wildlife but the huge reservoir of water should be adequate enough without the large bodies of water on the marshes. Being a flood plain we need to ensure the balance is right.”
Water levels on the wildlife haven are currently managed by the RSPB using electric pumps which take water to and from the main reservoir onto the wetlands.
However, in recent months the amount of water being allowed to remain on the 627-acre site has increased as the charity tries to encourage more winter birds to graze there.
Fourteen pumping stations across Canvey help drain excess surface water from the island into the Thames Estuary in times of heavy rainfall.
Calls are being made to install a new pumping station at a sluice in Northwick Road, to help better control the levels of surface water on the west of the island and the marshes.
Ray Howard, Tory councillor responsible for waste, floods and water management, said: “We hope it will curtail the amount of water that is currently laying on the marshes. People are contacting me saying they’ve never seen anything like it.
“I have no objections to the huge fleet of water over there, that is great and is a real attraction for the island, but we do not want all the fields filled with water. It has never been like that.”
David Hedges, Essex Area manager for the RSPB, said experts regularly check the depth of the water levels and the charity has strict guidelines from the Environment Agency as to how much water can be allowed on the land.
Electric probes are also in place to ensure the reservoir does not overflow.
He said: “We certainly want to manage the wetlands so that they do not affect our neighbours. In theory we could turn all the sluices down to the lowest level and the water would be drained in a few days.
“But the Thames Estuary provides a fantastic habitat for winter birds and since the 1930s we have lost of 90 per cent of our grazing marshes. By having these wind pumps we genuinely believe we actually improve the flood risk on Canvey.
“We welcome concerns about how we manage the marshlands and will be happy to meet with councillors to discuss this matter further.”