Beavering away on flood defences

December 22, 2017 6:33 am

I had to check the date recently as I thought the world had suddenly fast-forwarded to April 1st. But no, it’s December – and the latest scheme to stop flooding may be unbelievable but it is absolutely true.

According to an article in The Guardian, a valley in the Forest of Dean is going to introduce a rather novel, government-funded scheme to protect a village from flooding. A family of beavers are going to be released into a fenced enclosure near Lydbrook in Gloucestershire where they are expected to build dams which will hold water back and slow down peak flows.

The project is overseen by The Forestry Commission. Two adults and two kits are being released into 6.5 hectares which are enclosed by state-of-the-art fencing. According to a member of the Forest of Dean district council, “Beavers are the most natural water engineers we could ask for. They’re inexpensive, environmentally friendly and contribute to sustainable water and flood management.” Apparently their dams will slow down the release of storm water, while also allowing water to flow in droughts.

But not everyone is happy with the scheme. According to an article in Farmers Weekly, farmers have expressed concern over what would happen if the beavers were to escape the secure enclosure. This could have a negative impact on farmland and the landscape because the beavers would fell trees and tunnel through flood banks.

In Scotland, beavers have already been introduced but there was also an illegal release in 2009, and as a result there has been some flooding of agricultural land. According to a spokesman of the Scottish NFU, “The environmental benefits seen in localised areas must be viewed against the considerable damage from beaver activity on productive farmland, drainage systems, long-standing flood banks and established woodland.”

But as always it seems to come down to money. Apparently schemes such as the one near Lydbrook are much more cost-effective than traditional flood defences. As it’s been backed by the government, there’s likely to be a high level of applications and a new licensing system is being introduced. But apparently the conditions of the scheme include exhaustive monitoring requirements which could prove too costly to implement. So there’s still a long way to go.

We will keep an eye on developments.