Extract from http://www.thegreenblue.org.uk/pdf/z%201075.%20Dredging%20inland%20waterways.pdf
Dredging Inland Waterways; The environmental and financial consequences of implementing EU Directives into UK Law
CURRENT CONCERNS WITH REGARD TO REGULATION
At a recent meeting on sediments attended by practitioners and researchers into sediments; the workshop report stated that there were serious regulatory barriers to effective management of sediments in general and dredgings in particular. Concerns were recorded with regard to inconsistencies and fragmentation in the regulatory process. It was noted that there was a lack of consistency between local and area offices of the Environment Agency regulation staff, which was exacerbated by high staff turn over, problems with fragmented assessment and individual interpretation varying from officer to officer (Apitzet al, 2002). There have also been concerns from British Waterways that in the current climate of uncertainty; innovation and research is being hampered by the regulators who are using “the precautionary principle” as a rigid straight jacket. This was experienced to some extent in England over the NVZ trials and in Scotland over innovative dredging disposal for bank protection and construction works.
The primary impact on the navigation industry will be an increase in costs for dredging projects. This in turn will cause navigational bodies to restrict the level of dredging to an absolute minimum and increase use of hydrodynamic methods where dredgings are re-suspended and moved within the channel until they are no longer impeding navigation. This technique is limited to those situations where flow aids dispersion of dredgings and the impact is minimised by dispersion into naturally turbid waters.
Elsewhere, avoidance of disposal of dredgings to landfills is likely to result in larger quantities of dredged material being deposited along the banks of the navigation channel. This in turn may impact on uses of riparian property.
In urban settings where there is limited scope for dredging disposal, the impacts may be far reaching. It is in urban settings that the most challenging dredged material is found, resulting from historic activities. The contaminants are often elevated and there is usually a greater occurrence of refuse such as shopping trolleys and traffic cones. The increased costs may mean that navigations with little commercial value and no statutory requirement to maintain navigation may have to be closed while additional funds are raised from outside bodies to carry out the dredging. It would be hoped that this could be avoided by development of new economically efficient processing plant as mentioned above.
Further impacts on dredging activity may be caused by the Water Framework Directive if it can be shown that dredging changes the ecological status class of the water body. For heavily modified waters there is a derogation for physical alterations made for which the artificial characteristics of the body serve “as long as all mitigation measures are put in place to the best approximation to ecological continuum”. This means the Directive recognises the need to dredge for navigation purposes but best practice must be applied. This does mean that further lobbying, research and debate will have to be entered into, to show that further regulation and alternative techniques of dredging will not have significant ecological benefits that would change the ecological status of the water body.
Concerns have been raised at a Parliamentary level on the impact on authorities responsible for maintaining drainage channels. It was expressed that, “those responsible for watercourse maintenance will be so shackled by bureaucracy that dredging will be severely limited, so resulting in increased flood risk.” In response to a member of parliament asking about the policy regarding the removal of silt from watercourses, the Minister for the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley) replied that in his experience, it is rare for a drainage board to send dredgings to landfill sites, so that the Landfill and Nitrates Directives should not have an effect (Hansard 2003).
This shows how large a task it will be to educate those implementing the Directives.