With sea-level rise threatening more frequent and higher coastal surges a brave and innovative project has been completed that uses ecological infrastructure to protect the land and people of the on the Steart Peninsula in the River Severn Estuary.
The ambitious project, been led by the Environment Agency and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust is the UK’s largest ever coastal realignment scheme. The project, completed in September 2014, has been designed to allow more that 250 hectares of low-lying agricultural land revert to coastal, inter-tidal salt-marsh. Because of the ability of the new salt-marsh to reduce the wave energy of high tides and storm surges this primary natural defense means that the new sea-defense flood-barrier constructed behind it has been more economically produced than if man-made defenses had been used in isolation.
More than 100,000 homes and business valuated at £5 billion are protected by 200km of flood defenses along the Severn Estuary which need constant maintenance. This scheme demonstrates an effective and affordable approach to protect the local villages and farmland as well as important infrastructure including the National Grid Power lines that pass through this area.
The scheme actually achieves far more, including addressing the need for developing new habitat for migrating birds and spawning and nursery grounds for fishes. Furthermore over its lifetime the salt-march will sequester significant volumes of carbon dioxide and so will be a sink for thousands of tons of this greenhouse gas.
As Martin Spray the CE of the WWT commented the project…
‘proves you can protect homes and business by using wetland technology that works with nature rather than against it’.
The site will be managed by the WWT who aim to use it to also engage young people in conservation and heritage and encourage job creation in the local area as the site attracts more visitors.
See this video to learn more about the Seart coastal realignment and salt-marsh scheme.