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« Lawson vs Hoskins | Main | Guardian in sensible comment shocker »

Greenery is bad for you

The Mail is reporting that the lower reaches of the Thames were not dredged because the Environment Agency saw its first duty as being to protect a rare mollusc.


In a 2010 report, seen by the Mail, they ruled out dredging between Datchet and Staines because the river bed was home to the vulnerable creatures.

And even though a public consultation indicated support for de-silting work, the quango said it would be ‘environmentally unacceptable’ due to the ‘high impact on aquatic species’.


I can accept that dredging is not a panacea - a point made in New Scientist today - but it is becoming very clear that greenery has been put ahead of human welfare. The tendency for civil servants to put their own interests ahead of those of members of the public who pay their salaries has long been noted. For them to put the interests of voles and shellfish ahead of the public interest too is new. Heads need to roll.

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Reader Comments (66)

I always thought Greens were shellfish...

I'll get my coat.

Feb 13, 2014 at 8:43 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Bishop may say "heads need to roll" but how often does this actually happen in the public sector - answer, hardly ever, so why should this balls-up not just be brushed aside like nearly all other balls-ups; and, on the rare occasions that heads do roll, how often is it in fact the right heads? I suppose this flooding needs to get a lot worse yet: were it to get a lot worse, then the public might start thinking 'government not up to it' at which point the political class start fearing for their own careers and will find someone to stick the blame on, and sack - step forward Lord Chris Smith.

Feb 13, 2014 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

John Snow was apopletic on Channel 4 news yesterday evening in trying to blame all the storms and floods on Climate Change. He interviewed Paul Daniels, whose mansion is by the Thames and gets regularly flooded, and asked him if the floods were due to Climate Change. Paul Daniels upset Snow by saying the Thames had always flooded and the floods were made worse by not dredging the Thames anymore.

Feb 13, 2014 at 9:01 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

The Environment Agency is getting a taste of the public’s ability to say one thing but think another.

EA SURVEY Do you think that we should leave rivers undisturbed so that native species like the depressed mollusc can return to pre industrial levels?

PUBLIC Oh yes, we should be protecting our native wild life.


PUBLIC Why didn’t you protect homes by dredging the rivers?

EA SPOKESMAN But… but you wanted us to protect the native flora and fauna of the river systems.

PUBLIC Sod Flora and Fauna whoever they are and get the rivers dredged.

What value should they put on any public support for reducing CO2?

Feb 13, 2014 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

So it turns out that one can be certain that the UK flodding is antroproghenic, Environmetail Agency, caused.

Feb 13, 2014 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon
Feb 13, 2014 at 9:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterSara Chan

The short reach of the Thames between Marlow weir and Longridge Water Sports Centre has not been dredged since the Environment Agency were given responsibility for river maintenance in 1996. The residents of Quarry Wood Road, Bisham, whose houses front the reach are furious. The night before last I came across this report by the Flood Prevention Society:
It makes interesting reading.

Feb 13, 2014 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Pot

I'll be brutal. Anybody who inherited a house by a river or in a floodplain, ought be helped adapt it to withstand flooding once and for all. Anybody who simply bought such a house, ought be dealing with the problem themselves.

When I bought mine many years ago, I specifically went for a hilltop site. Didn't anybody know, England is a place of wild weather and plenty of rain when there's no drought. There'll be millions dead before the waters will reach us.

Stop rewarding the unconscionable, and let the molluscs and the humans find each a way to live.

Feb 13, 2014 at 9:34 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

There's a lot of bollocks in that New Scientist article; in UK winter floods (which usually only occur after at least a couple of weeks of rain) the ground is totally saturated, and land use, vegetation cover, and blocking 'up stream tributaries with tree stumps' will make no perceptible difference to run-off rates. These suggestions do have some merit for intermediate, and summer-time extreme rainstorm events, especially when trying to save urban areas downstream, but they will make no difference to the large winter flood events such as Somerset and now on the Thames. Increasing river capacity is still the best solution, as it will help the water get from the low lying areas faster.

Incidentally, I read a comment last night that the EA staff and contractors have been very busy in East Anglia clearing ditches and drains, which is maybe a sign that they have learnt some lessons from Somerset.

Feb 13, 2014 at 9:36 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

...The tendency for civil servants to put their own interests ahead of those of members of the public who pay their salaries has long been noted. For them to put the interests of voles and shellfish ahead of the public interest too is new...

Why sack them? They are not 'putting their own interests first' - they are doing their jobs. Remember, these people have been put in place by a 'green' administration. They have been specifically tasked with ensuring that the interests of voles and shellfish are put first. So that's what they have done.

What needs to happen is that people need to stop voting and supporting 'green' ideas. They need to realise that 'green' and 'suicide of the human race' are pretty much the same thing. Good luck with making that happen...

Feb 13, 2014 at 9:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

The Environment Agency does exactly what it says on the tin. Look after the enironment. That's what the goverment set them up to do.

The EA needs to be disbanded and a national rivers authority set up in its place with a specific remit to maintain the rivers, a 'can do' mentality and an appropriate budget to get on with the job. Led by engineers who know how to get on with it instead of greenie environmentalists.

Feb 13, 2014 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil-M

Phillip Bratby: "...John Snow was apoplectic on Channel 4 news yesterday evening in trying to blame all the storms and floods on Climate Change...."

Wasn't he just? He and Tom Clarke splashing wildly about in their wellies in Staines, voices raised, arms flailing, gleefully shrieking at each other that it's climate change wot dunnit, After Paul Daniel's more calm, and sensible approach, it was all rather comical. Then they roped in some reticent hydrologist, and rather made him say the same thing - that it was probably the climate changing. Hilarious.

Amazing how these people seem to think that suddenly, an allegedly quiescent, unremarkable, unchanging climate suddenly rears up and attacks the UK out of nowhere, and for nothing, after 4.5 billion years. Just like that.. How very dare it. Certifiable.

Feb 13, 2014 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat

Newsnight last night, David King said the Thames barrier had been closed and unprecedented 29 times in the last 10 weeks.
Might that have had an effect on flow rates in the upper Thames?

Feb 13, 2014 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterG. Watkins

@ omnologos

...Anybody who inherited a house by a river or in a floodplain, ought be helped adapt it to withstand flooding once and for all. Anybody who simply bought such a house, ought be dealing with the problem themselves...

Er... I thought that they HAD BEEN dealing with the problem? No one would be living on these floodplains unless a proper drainage scheme had been worked out - and it had been - around the 1600s.

The people living there understood the problem of withstanding floods very well, and understood that the way they were going to avoid major flood disruption was to keep the rivers dredged.

What they are complaining about is that the government have STOPPED dredging the rivers. In other words, they WERE protected against floods when they bought the property, and they AREN'T now. That's not something they could reasonably have foreseen...

Feb 13, 2014 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Old Goat: After the hydrologist reluctantly said (no expertise) that the heavy rain was 'probably' due to climate change, John Snow said something like "Excellent, that's just what I wanted to hear". So definitely no bias there then!

Feb 13, 2014 at 10:08 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Dodgy Geezer on Feb 13, 2014 at 9:55 AM
"What they are complaining about is that the government have STOPPED dredging the rivers. In other words, they WERE protected against floods when they bought the property, and they AREN'T now. That's not something they could reasonably have foreseen.."

It also appears that no one with any influence, apart from the Environment Agency itself, knew well enough of the change in policy to tell the residents! And they didn't either!

So why wasn't Thames dredged? In case a rare mollusc was disturbed - despite the region being described as one of the most 'undefended flood plains in England'

Power needs to return to the People!

Feb 13, 2014 at 10:14 AM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

I remember reading an article by Christopher Booker a couple of years ago about how the EU was "discouraging" the building of new reservoirs. I wonder if they had been built whether that would have made a difference to some localised flooding.

Feb 13, 2014 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

Check with the Dutch, "Rijkswaterstaat" and the "Waterschappen". The first is the government engineering organisation, the latter the regional watersystem management authorities.

There are very large rivers in The Netherlands and many polders below sea level. It is possible to protect people against floods, but it needs clear decisions and continuous work, with democratic control.

The EU Natura 2000 scheme is a troubling factor. People forget that nature is stone cold, aggressive, ruthless and senseless. Mankind has nothing to expect from nature, we only have each other to defend us. In my view all this semi-religious glorification of nature should stop.

Feb 13, 2014 at 10:27 AM | Registered CommenterAlbert Stienstra

G. Watkins - yes, that's exactly why it was closed.

They close at low tide, to provide a pool on the river side which can fill up without any back pressure from the rising tide.

That's how it works, and very well too!

Feb 13, 2014 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

I wonder how much time and money is currently being spent at the environment agency putting together very convincing computer models that will show to the select committee how there is absolutely nothing they could have done to prevent these floods.

Probably more than it would have cost to prevent them.

Feb 13, 2014 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

@Philip Bratby - O/T but District Councillor Trevor Lewis has hit back at my letter in the EDP (he may have sent it before your comment the next day). I'll be preparing something in reply. Do you have any contact details you can exchange (possibly via our host?).

Feb 13, 2014 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered Commenterdave ward

It will be interesting to see if, when the flood waters subside & recede, if the residents who have been inundated with flood water, plus those evacuated from their homes as a precaution, band together to sue the EA & the Guvment for a lack of responsibility for not maintaining the flood capacity of rivers through no longer dredging? I know lawyers are an incestuous bunch at the best of times, but when they smell a big pay cheque coming, they'll whore themselves to get it. Nothing personal against lawyers, but it was they who created the Human Rights Act, enabling murderers, rapists, paedolphiles & drug-barons to have rights to a family life & the like, when their victims generally get sod all!

Feb 13, 2014 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

For many years now I've watched as UK academia has slowly and steadily denigrated UK engineering so that e.g. the "science and engineering" committee turned into "science and technology" ... "scientific advisers" became like Communist appointed advisers skulking in every department and making sure they kept up the pro-academic (and so anti-industry) stance.

The result is that engineering has been removed from much decision making in the UK and academic-environmentalists have taken their place.

The scare about global warming is a symptom of this, so is this flooding because yet again the engineers have been ignored. Next it will be the power-grid fails, probably we have roads designed by academics (the Edinburgh tram stinks of that). If we carry on this way, all our infrastructure will end up being designed by committees of academics, and like the flooding, when they are put under pressure, they will fail.

Feb 13, 2014 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikeHaseler

How long/often had these parts of the Thames been dredged before the agency put a stop to it?

Feb 13, 2014 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterTony Hansen

Has anyone else noticed that no one in government seemed at all concerned until the rich houses beside the Thames starting being flooded?

Has anyone else noticed that Glasgow has also had a lot of rain - and strangely even though that means a lot more extra water here - I've not noticed anything on the BBC (although to be honest I've almost stopped listening unless the wife turns it on).

Feb 13, 2014 at 11:31 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Dredging and draining of land has taken place since Saxon Times. Many place names refer to the presence of water Isle of Oxney,Grain, Thanet, Pevensea Levels ,Romney Marsh, Holbeach Marsh, Bedford Level etc, etc . If we stop and the land reverts to marsh agricultural production will stop in these areas and we will have to import more food. People will have to be moved and build on greenfield sites. By increasing population density the output of sewage plants into existing water course will increase. Consequently, CO2 will be produced bringing food into this country and building new homes for the people who have been moved..

Feb 13, 2014 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Dave Ward.

I was sent a copy of Lewis' reply which was obviously written before my letter. My contact with regard to the EDP is Trevor S, if you know who I mean. If you have his email address, you can get in touch via him, otherwise I am happy for the Bish to give you my email address. I've already given Trevor some info as ammo in case he responds, but better for you to do it.

I noted that BMreports was showing an error of over 3GW in its 24hour predicition of wind output! I also pointed Trevor in the direction of the Keil report from Eike.

Feb 13, 2014 at 11:56 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Mike Haseler 11.31:

my brother heard a good quote, not sure where from, to the effect that they only started worrying when the effluent hit the affluent.

Feb 13, 2014 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaroline K

Philip Brarby/Old Goat - Jon Snow is so 'green' I'm surprised he's not sprouting grass instead of hair....

Feb 13, 2014 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

One wonders if the greenies who spent so much money on saving water voles to the detriment of mere people, and farmers at that, by abolishing dredging, are now suitably contrite because thanks to their enforced policies of not dredging, all the precious voles have now drowned.
That's what happens if people in responsible position go with their 'feelings' and their 'green hearts' rather than with facts - never mind actually thinking.

The animal behaviourist Konrad Lorenz had a suitable description for people who put animals before humans: "social sodomites" ...

Feb 13, 2014 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

A message from a retired engineer to government:

Ignore engineers at your peril...

Feb 13, 2014 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

The policymaking decisions that left these areas with no protection against flooding are revealed at EUReferendum and in the Spectator.

Feb 13, 2014 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

When, for all we know, entirely natural variation takes place in some of the Earth's regional climates why should these variations be regarded as an instance of human induced 'climate change'? Climate variation was real long before humans came along. With regard to the Sun- Earth system as a whole (itself within a greater whole) an absence of variation would indeed be entirely unnatural.

The Earth's climate, Ice Ages apart, naturally varies within a barely changing range. Thank goodness.

Feb 13, 2014 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Sydney

Incidentally - never seen/heard Staines referred to as 'Staines upon Thames' before...

I suspect that prospective property vendors will be dropping the 'upon Thames' bit as soon as the floods recede...!

Feb 13, 2014 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

So often we see that the man in the street knows exactly what the real problem is but the media and academia are blinded by dogma. I remember a French documentary about Maldives where the interviewer was desperately trying to get members of the public to agree about the sea level rise being caused by manmade climate change but everyone he asked said that it was just the government trying to get on the global warming gravy train in order to line their own pockets. The journalist, like Snow, Robinson and most of the pseuds in UK media, just assumed the lumpen public were either too stupid or too distrustful of politics to see reality. At the end of the prog he paid a visit to an island that had only just surfaced. Apparently islands appear and disappear there all the time. All irony was lost on him of couse.

Feb 13, 2014 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Tony Hansen
Must admit I wonder how such creatures survived the previous regime of environmentally hostile dredging.

Feb 13, 2014 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommentersandyS

A resident of the Somerset Levels put his finger on the problem when interviewed on (I think) Sky yesterday. He mentioned that someone from the Environment Agency had visited some months ago - but he wasn't 'local'..
There you have it in a nutshell. Officials in a remote quango making decisions about situations of which they have no detailed or historic knowledge...

Feb 13, 2014 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

Sherlock1, Staines held a local referendum on the name in 2012 and despite many more hilarious proposed names, ended up with this one. Apparently Ali G was the motivating force.

Feb 13, 2014 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk


couldn't agree more. From what I see of EA in Essex and Suffolk it's populated with degrees in biology or botany who have cross trained to become experts in 'coastal processes' whatever that is

the usefulness of their knowledge can be gauged by this example. After December 2013 surge there were several breaches of sea wall at Levington on River Orwell. Karen Thomas of EA in Ipswich emailed out to people, including those critical of EA asking for advice on repairing breach (partly because a breach on Blyth had been repaired by locals).

EA have an operations centre in Wallingford post code OX10 8BD. Much of computer modelling of water movement if done by HR Wallingford postcode OX10 8BA.

In fact there are only a few main contractors to EA, eg Mott McDonald, WS Atkins, Royal Haskoning. EA is a large client for these companies and there is no incentive to come up with 'controversial' answers.

By the same token EA/DEFRA/NE fund research including university research. Again there is a tendency to come up with 'acceptable' answers on the basis of not biting the hand which feeds you.

All these leads to a massive amount of group think not just in EA/DEFRA/NE but in their contractors and within universities. So if anyone does question orthodoxy there are plenty of willing helpers ready to point out the error of their ways.

Got a familiar ring to it!

Feb 13, 2014 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Shiers

Dredging IS the best flood mitigation measure there is. The Somerset Levels were flood controlled for 1000years, by hand, and it is the past 20 years when the ea stopped dredging that floods have got worse. The EA blame climate change not their failings of course.

The EA have some very sophisticated kit to indicate exactly where rivers need dredging. Unfortunately they fail to follow up with action.

Feb 13, 2014 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Meanwhile, evidence that it was a deliberate EA policy is gradually floating to the surface in the MSM

Flooding of Somerset Levels was deliberate policy of the Environment Agency, document shows.

An Environment Agency flood management policy, drawn up six years ago and still in force, deliberately set out to increase the frequency of floods on Somerset’s Levels and Moors, it emerged this week.

So why wasn't Thames dredged? In case a rare mollusc was disturbed - despite the region being described as one of the most 'undefended flood plains in England'

Feb 13, 2014 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith Macdonald

To all the green AGW ignoramuses like Jon Snow, the question to put to them is:

"How do you think floodplains were formed and why do they extend over such large areas around rivers if anthropogenic climate change and global warming only started happening at the end of the 20th Century?"

Feb 13, 2014 at 1:29 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Viv Evans
Being green means never having to say you're sorry — mainly because you never are. It also means never having to use what brainpower you were endowed with.
Greens do not think; they emote. They have wonderful visions of Avalon or Utopia (or if they live in Central Scotland, of modern versions of New Lanark, I kid you not!) and anything that gets in the way of this vision they simply brush aside.
It is nearly 20 years since I last saw a water vole on the Staffs & Worcs Canal.
Seen a few mink in that time, mind!

Feb 13, 2014 at 1:50 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"it was a deliberate EA policy"

Root around for reports from English Nature - as was. Put 1997 and natural areas into the search.

The greens think they own Avalon. Take a trip to Glaaaaaastonbury (near Pilton where they have that big music gig nearly every year). Try not to inhale.

Feb 13, 2014 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterfilbert cobb

There's an excellent post on WUWT on the history of many storms and structural failures on the Dawlish Sea Wall since it opened in 1846.


Maybe the Dawlish Black Swan Theory should be applied to the River Thames as well. Or, let's call it the forgotten history of the river.

Geological Survey maps of the Thames (and all over Britain) show alluvial evidence of floods, right up to around the 100 metre contour. In a booklet published by the British Geological Society called 'Britain beneath our feet', the BGS says:

"Flooding is the major and most frequent recurring natural disaster in Britain. But it is not a new phenomenon and geological information shows where it has happened in recent geological past - in the last 10,000 years. BGS holds data that show where the floodplains occur - the alluvial deposits that compose clay , silt sand and gravel left behind in previous inundations"

Historian friends tell me that the Thames was notorious, even as late as the nineteenth century, as being wholly unsuited to boats anywhere west of the tidal limit at Teddington. It was such a national scandal that it led to various very expensive canal and canalised river schemes. i.e. some proper and serious engineering.

Which would have helped drain the Thames Flood Plain for many years, waterways gradually fell into decline. Of course, it was competition from the railways that brought about this decline (oh the irony)

The "natural" consequence was less engineering/maintenance. more silting-up, and less drainage of flood waters from the Thames flood plain. Largely negelected by government agencies, only pressured into action by enthusiastic amateurs like the Canal Trusts, which have renovated significant sections of the old waterways. In the process, helping to alleviate flooding.

Feb 13, 2014 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith Macdonald

I have been reading several articles on line regarding the USA and its experiments to induce rainfall and snow using a number of techniques. I also understand that given how the earth's wind patterns flow, we tend to experience weather patterns that originate in the USA. If this is correct, and given the severe weather that the US has recently been experiencing, is it possible that such experiments are also a factor in what is currently happening to us here in England, combined with the lunacy of the EU, UK government and the Environment Agency in matters 'green'?

Feb 13, 2014 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn in cheshire

Vote Green - get floods,

or droughts, or heat waves, or snow ... or whatever it is that man-made CO2 is causing this month.

Feb 13, 2014 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

john in cheshire:


Feb 13, 2014 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

Dredging of the Thames is of secondary importance - there is plenty of capacity there to get the water to the sea where it belongs. BUT there are forty-eight locks and/or weirs on the Thames between Richmond and Cricklade (not a river, just a series of lakes really) and since the EA took over the management of the Thames they dispensed with most of the lock-keepers. What chance the locks/weirs are being operated to best advantage to let the water out? Not much, I fancy.
PS: We may, of course, have to forgo some of the navigability of the Thames in future; oh dear.

Feb 13, 2014 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterVernon E
All you ever needed to know about the depressed river mussel which seems to be in much greater abundance than the Pearl Mussel whose sporadic and much reduced populations (through overfishing) are generally geriatric and no longer able to breed.

Feb 13, 2014 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterroger

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