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The Jubilee River story - October 2010 - The International Thiess River Prize

Welcome to the Jubilee River swamp - Plus letters to and from Dr. Paul Leinster. and from Matthew Reddy Chief Executive IRF.

The Environment Agency has won the International Thiess River Prize of £218,000 for environmental improvements to the Thames and Jubilee Rivers.

The Maidenhead Advertiser stated that the River Thames has been crowned the beauty queen of the planet's waterways.  The renowned river which runs through London was selected out of hundreds of rivers across every continent as the winner of International Thiess river prize, which celebrates outstanding achievement in river management and restoration.  It was up against beautiful scenic rivers around the world such as the Yellow River in China and Hattah Lakes in Australia.  The Thames scooped the prize due to its dramatic recovery from a biologically dead river in the 1950s to today's thriving waterway.  Peter Quarmby, flood coastal risk manager, said: "The River Thames' remarkable recovery over the last 50 years is a testament to the dedication and hard work of many people and organisations."  The award was given to the Environment Agency and announced on Tuesday in Perth, Australia.  London mayor Boris Johnson said: "The Thames is one of our most precious assets, so I am thrilled to see that efforts to improve and preserve its good health are being lauded on the world stage."

The truth is that the Thames is no longer dredged for flood defence purposes and the probability of flooding is increasing due to bed rise, the £110m Jubilee River fell apart on first use in 2003 which resulted in £5m for repairs and a £2.75m out-of-court settlement for sub-standard design and construction.  The new channel is still unable to carry its design capacity of 215 cumecs, a possibility that was considered at the 1992 Public Inquiry.

Taplow Mill Leat had a £1m problem, the Taplow Control structure was designed and built without a stilling basin (high speed flood water ripped away the bed and banks), Manor Farm Weir was built back to front (another bank scour problem) and Slough Weir downstream protection was stripped away by flood water (£680,000 to repair)

The Myrke embankment almost collapsed in 2003, has already been rebuilt once in 2004 at a cost of £1.3m and is now degrading rapidly, the bend radius problem is unresolved and the channel is now overwhelmed by algae every Summer thus becoming a significant Health & Safety hazard.

Below: Algae at Slough Weir - August 2010 (please click image to enlarge)








Please also see  Algae at Slough Weir - Aug 2010 , Letter from Robert Runcie (June 2006) , What's wrong with the Jubilee River and Algal mat warning sign - July 2009

    Algae warning sign (please click to enlarge)

The Environment Agency submission for the international river prize focused on five innovative projects put in place to further improve the quality of the Thames and its tributaries:
  • Working with farmers – which has helped to reduce pollution from nutrients and pesticides.
  • The Jubilee River Flood Alleviation Scheme -  which has created a new 11 km stretch of naturalistic river and habitats, whilst delivering flood protection to 5,500 homes.
  • The London Rivers Action Plan - which is helping restore London’s urban rivers, with 58 new river restoration projects in progress since its launch in 2009.
  • The London Tideway Tunnels - a £3.6bn scheme tackling the 39 million tonnes of storm sewer overflows that enter the tidal Thames annually.
  • Thames Estuary 2100 - a 100-year adaptable plan to ensure the future sustainable management of tidal flood risk in the Thames estuary, and protecting over 1.25million people and £200bn in property value.
  • The London Tideway Improvements - three Thames Water schemes to tackle the 39 million tonnes of storm sewer overflows that enter the tidal Thames in an average year. These are the £675m Sewage Works Upgrades, the £635m Lee Tunnel, and the proposed Thames Tunnel (estimated cost £3.6bn).

Further information

Source document

You can find the EA map of the Jubilee River here: Jubilee River - MAP (EA) 163Kb.pdf

Below is a letter from Datchet resident Ian Thompson written in November 2010 about algae.

The Continuing Environmental Pollution within the Jubilee River.

This is a pollution issue relevant to the Jubilee River that carries a recognized Health and Safety issue and causes a local amenity loss to residents of west Datchet in Berkshire that can easily be resolved.

An Algal bloom occurs within the Jubilee River each year to a greater or lesser degree brought about by climate conditions together with the design and construction of the Jubilee River.

The Algal bloom has occurred over the last six summers for a number of months generally being continuously present between May and October.

The cause of the localized Algae accumulation is due to the design of the safety booms set upstream of each weir. The present design prevents the free natural downstream flow of Algae to disperse into the River Thames. This occurrence has been photographically recorded on an annual basis.

The weir booms contain the Algae which results in large expansive mats forming that are being compacted up to a thickness of 225mm (9") and extending at times up to 100 meters upstream of the booms.

The Algal mat being present over many months allows litter and debris from Slough and the M4 motorway to accumulate together with rotting animal carcasses and other detritus to be present throughout each summer.

The Environment Agency Website states that the Jubilee River is an amenity available to local residents and visitors, with the degree of visual and actual degradation caused by this pollution, demonstrates that their claim is not viable or acceptable.

Wildlife, especially bird and duck populations have been visibly declining over recent years and rats have been visible running upon the mat surface.

Having raised the matter with the Environment Agency, their response within their letter dated 18th August 2010, states "We do not believe there are any practical options for improving the current situation". Then follows with, "The removal of the safety booms, which might address some of the build up of algae, would introduce a health and safety issue at the weirs that the booms are designed to mitigate, namely, a physical measure to avoid craft and people being put at risk on the weirs during high flows "

The factual response to the above statements is that the EA have released the booms in the past and allowed the mat to disperse into the Thames, therefore there is no conjecture on this point.

There is no navigation upon the Jubilee River or point of craft access at the boom locations. Furthermore when the algal mat is in place the higher risk to persons or any craft is being trapped in or drawn under the mat many meters upstream of the boom, is a far higher risk as no waterside access exists relative to the high steep embankments. This situation has been recognized by the EA with their admission that a risk to Health and Safety is presented by the formation of the algal mat and to that effect they have fixed notices along the Jubilee River at the locations of algal mat.

Their letter then states that "This algae does not present a human health and safety hazard as it non toxic. We monitor the physical presence of the build up of algae to ensure it does not present an unacceptable health and safety issue". This statement is clearly at odds with their public notices defining that there is a risk issue. Where this is seen and admitted they do not intend to take action but hope that it mitigates over time. According to a qualified biologist, this will not happen.

The EA do not state what action they would take if the level reached "unacceptable" which it clearly did this year where no physical action to clear the pollution was taken ,only to put up notices.

The resolution of this problem caused by the current design of the safety boom would be to replace them with a different design not reliant on total surface obstruction, However, within para4 of the EA letter they had investigated other methods of algae control and refer to cost effectiveness, therefore, is this the real reason that they intend to take no action?.

It is therefore unacceptable that local residents have this blight imposed on us by the recalcitrance of the EA to properly resolve a problem of their own making within our locality and in other upstream communities, in essence for perpetuity every summer.

The EA have recently received world acclamation and a very large sum of money for their efforts in cleaning the River Thames, this is rightfully recognized, However, in the overall view this one albeit small issue does exist and is not pleasant for residents and visitors to Datchet and Eton to be faced with this annual event which will be visible to Olympics’ visitors in 2012 at each weir location, especially adjacent to the rowing venue and from the M4 Motorway.

In view of the fact that the EA have received this windfall sum there should no be no cost barrier or excuse in furnishing the simple solution to this problem. We residents await a response from the EA and the return of our rightful amenity which we have paid for in income and council tax.

Ian Thompson - Datchet Resident.

  The Jubilee River at Eton Road

Below: An open letter to Dr Paul Leinster - Chief Executive Environment Agency

From Ewan Larcombe, 67 Lawn Close, Datchet, Berks SL3 9LA    25 November 2010.

Dear Dr Leinster

The International Thiess River Prize and other matters

I feel that I should let you know that I am astonished to learn that the Environment Agency recently won the £218,000 International Thiess River Prize for environmental improvements to the Thames and Jubilee Rivers.  Maybe the awarding body are blissfully unaware of the reality but then that could be because they are based in Australia.

I realise that having replaced Barbara Young you are relatively new to this position, but I do feel that I need to let you know what’s happening around here.

Very briefly the Environment Agency continues to claim that the Jubilee River is an environmental enhancement that saved homes in Windsor, Eton and Maidenhead from flooding.  That statement may well be true, but the whole truth is that as a consequence of sub-standard design and construction the new channel was severely damaged in 2003. 

Your legal action against Lewin Fryer & Partners resulted in a £2.75m out-of-court settlement towards repair costs totalling about £5m.  To make matters worse the channel is still unable to carry its design capacity of 215 cumecs (thus undermining the cost/benefit justification) and is regularly contaminated with many thousands of square metres of hazardous algae. Furthermore the Myrke bend is too tight and the Myrke Embankment in Datchet – dismantled and rebuilt in 2004 at a cost of £1.3m - is degrading yet again.  Other local critical ordinary water courses (now designated ‘main river’ and the responsibility of the EA) are just neglected.

As for the Thames, no sooner had the Environment Agency taken over from the National Rivers Authority in 1995 than the dredgers and operators used for 50 years were discarded and disposal facilities closed – all without consultation.  Clive Onion’s recommendations from the 2004 FRAG Report have not been implemented.  The bed of the Thames is now rising due to sedimentation thus leading to ever-reducing conveyance capacity and consequential increase in the probability of flooding and with backwaters becoming un-navigable.

Finally, I presume the £300m Lower Thames Flood Risk Management Strategy is delayed or on hold due to lack of funds.  This leaves the people downstream of Windsor worse off than they were before the Jubilee River was built, but of course I should remind you that the Environment Agency no longer has Crown Immunity from prosecution for manslaughter. 


    Ewan Larcombe

Copies to:

    Anne McIntosh MP, Chris Smith EA, Caroline Spelman MP, Richard Benyon MP, Adam Afriyie MP, International River Foundation

Below: The two page response from Dr Paul Leinster - Chief Executive Environment Agency

Below is the response from Matthew Reddy - Chief Executive IRF dated 6 December 2010

Original page: Welcome to the Jubilee River swamp