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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Thames non tidal

    Default River Levels on 1st June!!

    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the unusually high river levels experienced early on Fri 1st June.

    At 1000 Sonning was lapping over the top of the lockside and Caversham was reported to be over the top by several inches. The river did seem to be somewhat out of control. The feedback I received from several different sources was that the message to alter the weirs did not get through in this area. Upstream weirs were being reset into the early hours (I was told). Level increases of between 18 and 24 inches were being quoted!

    Now the puzzle is this. The day before the storms, which were forecast, the EA had reportedly set up an "Incident Room" to prepare for the expected floods. How come they were totally unprepared for the surge of water that reached the river? Could it possibly be that we don't have enough lock keepers? Double and triple manning is surely eroding the safety of the river. Is this acceptable?

    We have just finished 2 weeks on the river, reaching Abingdon, and have never before had to operate so many locks as this year. It was also noted that several pump-outs were out of order.

    Am I alone in thinking that we are being short changed on our licence fee?

    Who is the best person / office to complain to?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2017

    Default Re: River Levels on 1st June!!

    These blips do happen occasionally but are rarely reported unless property is flooded. When staff come on duty at 9am they deal with it swiftly.

    I checked the guagemap records and Sonning head water was +16" at 0900 on 1 June. Sonning's maximum alarm level is +13" ( as the towpath floods at +14" ) but that assumes that the lock house alarm is working and many are not. The EA relies on alarms from the telemetry now which is monitored by duty flood officers who are not part of the waterways team - its not always joined up. The graph indicates a sharp rise in the few hours prior to this level which does suggest that the call out process wasn't used or went awry. The duty flood officer in the incident room may have passed on the predicted rise to the waterways duty officer who will have decided whether and who to call out residents and relief lock keepers. Without the detail of who was available and what decisions were made it's hard to say if it was a message failure or a decision not to call out staff after 2am as that has an impact on their ability to work the next day (working time directive). I'm sure there will have been enough lock keepers to deal with this but they may not have been notified.

    We all agree that there aren't enough keepers now and there has been much comment on this forum about that. Double and triple manning may slow down reaction times to changes in levels but the EA will argue it doesn't erode safety as there is always the opportunity to call out extra staff if deemed necessary.

    As for being short-changed on the licence fee, the EA will repeat that the fee permits you to float your boat on the river, nothing else is included, like road tax allows you to drive on the roads but doesn't include having police officers on duty or potholes fixed. Complaints should be sent to Barry Russell, Waterways Manager, Environment Agency, Shepperton Lock, Shepperton TW19 9LW. There's no point emailing him as he doesn't look at email. Expect to wait a month for a reply and any reply is unlikely to be found to be satisfactory.
    Last edited by Old Crusty; 13-06-18 at 06:32.
    When I was in the Navy ...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2001

    Default Re: River Levels on 1st June!!

    Thanks for that. Always interesting

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2013

    Default Re: River Levels on 1st June!!

    At the Thames Navigation Users Forum meeting on 5 June Barry Russell apologised for the poor water level control on 1 June and assured us that the events were being investigated to improve future response.

    It is likely that the reduced staffing numbers were a contributory factor but not the only issue.

    Attendees at the meeting continue to press Waterways managers for smarter ways of working and ensuring that the principal contributors to the cost of running the waterway - the motorboat owners - get best service for their significant contributions.


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