Government slated over EA rivers’ funding crisis
THE GOVERNMENT IS ‘dodging the issue’ of ensuring the Enviroment Agency maintains its rivers in line with statutory obligations, the Inland Waterways Association claims.
With a number of less-used parts of the EA’s Anglian waterways impassable (for ten years in the case of Welches Dam), IWA highlighted an internal document admitting that further Anglian rivers (such as the Nene or Great Ouse) could close if repairs were unaffordable (see CB, April).
This led to parliamentary questions, in reply to which Waterways Minister Thérèse Coffey confirmed that “if there is a safety risk to members of the public then repairs will be undertaken to remove the risk or the asset will be closed”.
She added that the EA would consider reopening closed waterways depending on “future funding available and the importance, such as the level of use” of the waterway.
IWA responded that this ignores the EA’s maintenance obligations, and that level of use “should not be a significant factor” and often results from poor maintenance. National chairman Les Etheridge said “We can only think that the Minister has been incompletely briefed by EA officials as to the seriousness of the present funding crisis.”