Campaign to Remove Dee Branch Blockage01 May 2018
A 'temporary' flood barrier which had been in place for over two years has been removed from the Dee Branch in Chester, following a successful campaign by IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch and pressure from Canal & River Trust.
The Environment Agency completely blocked passage of the Dee Branch back in March 2016, when they installed a flood defence barrier. The Dee Branch is a branch of the Shropshire Union Canal, which gives access to the tidal River Dee and, for suitable boats, to the Upper Dee above the weir in Chester. Although the branch has in the past been unusable due to siltation, CRT dredged the channel 3 years ago and it should in theory have been navigable apart from the flood barrier being in place.
An agreement had been reached between EA, Cheshire West & Chester Council and Canal & River Trust for a removable steel barrier to be inserted in the River Lock. The barrier would normally be stored off-site and only inserted when there was a risk of very high tide and flooding in this part of Chester.
Once EA had 'experimentally' inserted the barrier to make sure it fitted it was simply left in place, rather than being used in the manner intended. IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch raised the matter with EA, and also with CRT who had given notice that it would charge EA for every day that the barrier remained, which CRT was entitled to do under the agreement. The Branch welcomes the subsequent removal of the barrier and will be keeping a close eye on the situation in future.
Clearing the blockage will allow Arthur Davies, Harbour Master at Rhyl Harbour, to undertake a planned circumnavigation of Wales in May. His proposed navigation of the Dee Branch will be a welcome test of EA and CRT positions.
Any blockage of the Dee Branch would jeopardise one of the key elements of the Chester Waterways Strategy, supported by IWA, which is the plan to open up a link between the Shropshire Union Canal and the upper reaches of the River Dee by building a new lock in the mill race at Chester Weir.