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Unsung heroes who saved the Wyberton and Frampton areas from flooding during the tidal surge of December 5 have been praised.

The breach in the primary sea defence at Slippery Gowt where the Board's continuous pumping operation saved Wyberton and Frampton from potential flooding

They were the engineers who defied the risks to keep the pumps running at Wyberton Marsh after sea defences were breached.

Black Sluice Internal Drainage Board Chief Executive Ian Warsap described how sea water rushed through the breach in the sea bank at Slippery Gowt and flooded into the area's drains.

A conservative total of 220 million litres (88 Olympic size swimming pools) was contained by the drains and pumped back into the Haven, much of which might otherwise have flooded overland in the direction of Wyberton and Frampton.

Earlier in the year flood-resilience works at the pumping station ensured the pumps and ancillary equipment had been raised above any future flood water levels. Kirton Marsh pumping station has also had its pumps and associated machinery raised above anticipated flood levels ensuring they too can continue to operate during an emergency. New non-return valves allow for continuous pumping into The Haven even when the sea water levels are extreme.

Board members agreed works to increase the capacity and flow of drains in that area.

The flood was uppermost in the minds of Board members when they made their annual inspection tour on Wednesday.

Black Sluice Pumping Station flood level Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
An Environment Agency engineer points out the level of December's tidal surge flood water inside the Black Sluice Pumping Station. There is another floor ten feet below this one

They visited the Environment Agency's Black Sluice Pumping Station in Boston which had not fared so well. On the night of December 5 water poured through the walls flooding to a depth of 13 feet.

All five pumps were put out of action with damage from silt to gearboxes and floodwater damage to cooling pumps and electronics. Engineers inside watched in horror as flood water pouring from The Haven rose three feet up the outside of the windows. The lower floor at the pumping station, which houses equipment without which the pumps cannot operate, is about ten feet below. Orders had to be given to evacuate the building.

Two of the five pumps, located at a higher level in the pump house, have been re-commissioned and are currently dealing with raised water levels in the South Forty Foot Drain. A standby generator, also housed above the flood level, is now in place to start the two operational pumps.

Members were told that allowing the flood water from The Haven into the South Forty Foot Drain would have made no significant difference because of the magnitude of the flood and the huge volume of water.

The tour considered actions to be taken to improve drainage to a large area of agricultural land and drainage issues in connection with the planned Quadrant development at Wyberton.

There were concerns about the performance of some drains where residents have responsibility for culverts which have become blocked. All residents along the affected area had been contacted and some had unblocked culverts, but unless all did so no one benefited.

The Board has the power, should persuasion fail, to do the work and send those with responsibility for maintenance their share of the bill. The Board has agreed to draw up a policy to deal with the issue.

Care for fish in the Board's watercourses was evident. Members on the tour saw electro-stunning and removal of fish prior to around five miles of drain being dammed, drained and silt and debris cleaned out to improve flow. The work will last for ten years. And £80,000 has been received from the EA to be spent on eel and fish-friendly flap valves at pumping stations to allow fish injury-free passage.

Electro fishing Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Electro fishing on the North Forty Foot Drain prior to damming and draining for cleaning work

The Board heard that, perhaps surprisingly, the 12 months from February, 2013, had been drier than the 25-year average, except for three spectacularly wet months. In March, 2013, rainfall was 134 per cent of average, 171 per cent in October and almost 213 per cent in soggy January, 2014.

Surveying the slippery gowt breach Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Engineers survey the Slippery Gowt breach