Benign Severn Estuary Boundary!

The Severn Estuary, in the West of England, faces an existential threat in the form of a storm-tide, or stormsurge. This tsunami-like event occurs, rarely, when a high spring tide coincides with a low pressure storm, a cyclone. It happened in 1607, killing 2000 people, demolishing a church in Cardiff and sweeping seawater in as far as Glastonbury. Kingston Seymour Church recorded flood levels of over 7m!  And it happened, too, on the East Coast of the UK in 1953, where a storm tide overwhelmed sea defences, flooded far in land and killed over 300 people. That event resulted directly in the building of the Thames Barrier to prevent future stormtides surging up the Thames Estuary from threatening central London.

Should we guard against such a rare and unpredictable event? Well, it turns out that storm surges are not that rare - it’s just that they rarely coincide with a high spring tide. and we know that, with global warming already being experienced around our shores, we can look forward to a rise in mean sea levels of c.1m and a rise in mean global temperature by +1˚C by the end of the century. So, our atmosphere is becoming wetter and more energetic. The prospects for destructive storm tides is increasing…the time to do something about it is now.

Conclusions from the Concept Study?? A Clarion Call to Government Action!

  • Government has an irrevocable “duty of care”to preserve, conserve and protect the vulnerable Severn Estuary, its ecosystems, population of some 1.04 million, habitats, archaeological sites, unique intertidal mudflats, RAMSAR sites, Somerset Levels, nuclear power stations, etc., etc… 
  • .. against the threat of increasingly severe storms, rising tides and temperatures exacerbated by global warming – already threatening our coastlines (National Trust, 2015) – making storm tides and storm surges ever more probable with each passing year
  • It is conceptually-feasible & affordable to construct a Benign Severn Estuary Barrier against storm-tides – corresponding to the existing Thames Barrier, also built to combat storm tides…
  • It would be a major civil engineering project, phased-in over many years, needs government backing, careful planning, research, design, development, technology, project & financial management… 
  • .. and it would bring protection, conservation, employment, income and energy to a largely deprived area of the UK…
  • The project would be/could be, self-funding, harnessing tidal stream renewable/lunar energy that, with care, will not damage  — but conserve — the unique & precious estuarine ecosystem/environment - and people! 
  • So, very definitely nothing to do with ecologically-destructive tidal barrage schemes, then!
  • Time is pressing, with global warming already knocking on our respective doors…Government initiative is recommended soonest…perhaps in the form of a comprehensive, EU-supported feasibility study, providing a sound ec0-scientific, social, economic and political basis for proceeding with this greenest of green national projects…?
© D K Hitchins 2014