A KEY stretch of the River Parrett in Somerset will not be dredged this year, local authority figures have confirmed.

The Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) was created in 2015 to coordinate flood prevention efforts across the county following the disastrous flooding of 2012 and 2013/14.

The SRA had intended to carry out dredging on the river between Oath and Burrowbridge in the autumn of 2018, as part of various measures to ensure sufficient capacity across the Somerset Levels and Moors.

But this section of dredging has now been delayed because of its “complex and sensitive nature”, with no work being possible on the site until early 2019.

The SRA has insisted that delaying the dredging in this area will not endanger local residents or businesses, in light of other work that has already been carried out.

SRA board members were briefed on the situation at a meeting in Williton on September 7, ahead of a further technical briefing on September 24.

The SRA had committed in June 2017 to “dredge the River Parrett between Oath and Burrowbridge as soon as a legally compliant and affordable scheme can be found”.

But Iain Sturdy, chief engineer at the Parrett Internal Drainage Board (IDB), said in his written report that the complexity of the scheme meant progress had been slower than anticipated.

He said: “The project team have been working to a programme that would have commenced work on site in autumn 2018.

“However, although preparations have progressed, there remain a number of aspects which require further work to meet the brief given by the board.

“It is now not possible to commence work on site this autumn.”

The SRA has said further water injection dredging would be carried out elsewhere on the River Parrett to ensure Somerset residents were protected this winter.

A spokesman said: “There is more maintenance dredging planned along the 8km of the River Parrett and River Tone that was pioneer-dredged in 2014.

“Silt monitoring has shown that about 25,000 cubic metres of silt has been re-deposited by the tides coming up and down the River Parrett.

“The Parrett IDB, on behalf of the SRA, is planning to shift this silt by using the water injection dredging techniques that were successfully tried out last year, and the year before, with contractors Van Oord.

“The aim is to get as close as is practicable to preserving the capacity achieved in 2014, so the SRA will give people the same level of protection they’ve had since that time.”

Trials of water injection dredging were carried out on the River Parrett in December 2016.

The technique involves driving silt on the river bed into suspension, allowing it to be carried out to sea on the outgoing tide and thereby increasing capacity for communities inland.

This technique cannot be used between Oath and Burrowbridge because the channel is “too narrow” and much of the material needing to be removed is above the waterline rather than on the channel bed.

More conventional dredging techniques – including diggers being operated from the bank or on barges – will be used instead when the project begins.