Storms cause closure of navigations and towpaths

Storms cause closure of navigations and towpaths

31 December 2015

The advice to boaters is to remain moored up for the next few days on waterways affected by recent flooding until waters subside and the damage caused can be assessed and remedied.

CRT say there is considerable damage along much of the Rochdale Canal, the Calder & Hebble and on the Aire Navigation through Leeds that may take some time to repair.  Fallen trees and other debris have caused closures in other areas too such as the Nene below Nun Mills Road Bridge.  The Environment Agency has asked boaters to take extra care when navigating the river due to high winds and floating debris.

Over the Christmas weekend heavy rain falling onto saturated hills and moors, ran down into the Calder Valley and overflowed into the Rochdale Canal and the Calder & Hebble Navigation.  On Boxing Day the streets in the middle of Hebden Bridge were waist-deep in water.  Several boats on the Rochdale Canal were swept from their moorings, with one left high and dry across the canal.  Excess water eroded part of the embankment causing a small breach midway between Lock 16 and 17, with water flowing into the adjacent River Calder. There is also a small landslip upstream of Lock 16.  As the water surged it caused havoc to the Calder & Hebble Navigation between Elland and Brighouse.  Several boats were pushed on to the bank while four others sank.  The towpath and part of the arch of Crowther Bridge, near Cromwell Lock, were washed away.

Boat sunk in December 2015 storms on Calder and Hebble near Wakefield
CRT says there are substantial lengths of towpath along the Rochdale Canal that have been washed out and in need of repair.  They expect significant volumes of material to have entered the channel that will need dredging.  

The same day the Calder burst its banks in the town of Mytholmroyd.  Canal & River Trust advised boaters to avoid the waterway as well as the Aire & Calder.  Further Boxing Day misery was wrought in Wigan when the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and River Douglas burst their banks and heavy rainfall caused despair for homeowners and drivers alike.  

CRT engineers are assessing the damage across their waterways and will be continuing to liaise with the Environment Agency, local councils and the emergency services over the coming days as they seek to assess, repair and re-open the waterways affected.  

Teams from River Canal Rescue have been in the area and have re-floated two of the sunken boats and are hoping to have the other two afloat shortly before looking at how the stranded boats might be retrieved.  They urge boaters affected to raise an insurance claim and to act quickly to mitigate the cost of the claim.

The Environment Agency’s deputy chief executive David Rooke told the BBC that Britain needs a 'complete rethink' of its flood defences after the cities of Leeds, Manchester and York and towns such as Hebden Bridge were inundated when rivers and canals broke their banks.  He spoke with reference to the flooding earlier in December in Cumbria too.  Price Waterhouse Coopers has estimated economic losses caused by the floods and storms to be in excess of £3bn.  

Home owners and businesses across Scotland, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester are now taking stock of their situations after Storm Frank, the 6th storm of the season battered British shores.   Flood defences have been enhanced over recent years, but that has not been sufficient to prevent properties in northern England, including the Lake District, from being flooded several times this month.
The minister for the Environment Liz Truss was forced to admit that flood defences had been overwhelmed and would be reviewed.   In York, the Rivers Ouse and Foss burst their banks leading to city centre streets being covered in chest-high water and 4,000 residents being evacuated.  EA was criticised for deciding to open the Foss barrier after the electrics were damaged by water.  If the barrier had remained closed it was feared flood water would have been impossible to pump out of the town.  The River Foss flood barrier was built in 1987 to stop the city's two rivers, the Ouse and the Foss, from converging. An inquiry is expected to be launched regarding the Environment Agency's decision to not activate it.

An EA spokesman said “Had the barrier remained closed and without the pumps running, the flooding would have been more widespread and many more homes would have flooded…. The properties that flooded as a result of the opening of the barrier would have flooded had the barrier remained closed.”

In Leeds city centre roads were underwater in what MP Hilary Benn said were the worst floods the city had seen.

For more details of waterway closures take a look at the Stoppages and Restrictions page on our website which links you through to the navigation authority websites.     

Images Show Crowther Bridge damage on the Calder and Hebble Navigation and a sunken boat on the Calder and Hebble near Wakefield.  Both images courtesy of River Canal Rescue.

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