Silt laden Severn water - all this fine silt will be deposited if the flow is forcibly reduced

Lord Berkeley wades in to the Severn Debate


He seems to have the measure of dear Mr. Hain.

“My colleague in another place, the battle hardened Rt Hon Peter Hain MP, has stepped down from the shadow cabinet to intensify publicity for Hafren Power’s proposal for a 10 mile long barrage from Cardiff to Weston-Super-Mare, and has taken to his task with vigour.

Bold claims about the scheme, such as that it will generate 50,000 jobs, employ a (yet to be prototyped) ‘fish-friendly’ turbine and adhere to environmental protection and European legislation, are easily disproved. As is the suggestion that the change in tidal range will have no effect on ship movements. The damming of the estuary will not reduce flooding (indeed, it will make the type of flooding that is an issue in the area already, fluvial and pluvial, worse because water sits on the land for longer through a process called tidal locking) and the 69,000 migratory birds cannot simply relocate to a like-for-like habitat bigger than the size of Bermuda.

Headline grabbing statements such as those above, whilst appealing both environmentally and economically, are not backed up. After much searching on Hafren Power’s website and through the company’s written evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, it has become evident that there is precious little detail to support these claims.”

Marine Conservation Society, tell it like it is over barrage idea.


While dear Mr Hain and his buddies are flying high over the issues to do with a barrage, MCS a leading environmental campaigning group, tell it like it is from a grounded understanding of what goes on in the water. Dear Mr Hain still floats in the clouds promising us the moon happily disregarding the tiny folk in the real world.

Dear Mr. Hain seems to have some dodgy Barrage friends.


Its not up to me to say that something stinks about the proposed funding of a proposed Severn Barrage - other people say it for me.

Here Christopher Brooker from the Telegraph, points out the tangled web of who benefits from what!

What is dear Mr. Hain up to?


Hello there,

This blog has been quiet for a long time as although most thought the barrage had gone away, I knew folk had been working very hard on it for years while the NGO’s got on with other things and hoped it had gone away. One of the reasons for not posting is because the barrage chaps seemed to take my arguments an spin them round to their advantage. i felt like I was giving them a critique that they were using - adapting to the information like the Borg!

So, I’ll let other folk get on with explaining what I see while i get on with other plans.

Here, Tim Worstall from the Telegraph explains why a Barrage would cost us the people of this island dearly even though dear Mr. Hain swears his friends in the Middle East are paying for it. (by the way Mr. Hain, hats off to you, I’m truly impressed by your crusade).

Follow the link:

Barrage plans shelved


The Government has announced that plans for a big barrage have been dropped. This means they don’t have the money to spend on such a risky project. But they will look again at the ’smaller’ schemes in five years time.

Independent evidence?
The report has stated that this scheme is too expensive and too environmentally damaging so won’t be supported by the Nation’s (our) money. This hasn’t stopped the ‘impartial experts’, teaming up with Halcrow to look for investment from the middle east. I have long been skeptical how independent some of the experts advising our Government departments are. The expert charged with silt modelling and tidal impacts, has his post sponsored by Halcrow. How could his evidence ever be independent? And now he has teamed up with Halcrow to start a company, should the findings of his report be scrutinised by an informed and independent expert? Dr. Graham Dabourne has advised many Governments on the effects of damming estuaries and he would be the perfect candidate.

Five year reprieve
The smaller schemes, may look to be a happy compromise, but sadly they are the worst option. The ‘Shoots’ proposal for a smaller dam near the Severn Bridges is perhaps a red herring. The site has the highest silt load in the estuary so any structure will be overwhelmed very quickly. The impact on the river system would be swift, the amount of electricity produced the smallest. But this does offer a way forward. By looking at this scheme, the bar has been lowered making the investment in non-barrage solutions even more attractive. Tidal stream turbines will produce more electricity and have a minimal impact on the river system. With a small investment this technology will leap frog the barrages and create an export business.

If I was the director of Corlan Hafren Limited, I would putting my companies money into developing these superior technologies rather than shackling it to an out-moded yet untried technology. Where barrages have been tried in silty estuaries, Canada, they have proved to fail.

The proposal for a ‘lagoon’ in Bridgewater Bay is beset with the same problems as a barrage. During a conversation with the design engineer he admitted that it would just silt up.

Our estuaries are too precious to squander on these short sighted heavy engineering schemes. They are actually doing something already. Not only are the entrance and exits for our great river systems, they harbour a wealth of life. Importantly for the fishing industry and our dinner tables, they are vast nurseries for marine fish. They are a safe place for fish to breed, for the young to grow and stock the surrounding seas and fishing grounds. What ever we put in the Severn to make electricity will set a precedent for all other estuaries in the UK and the world. It has to be right, far-sighted and truly ‘green’.

The Severn: we don’t have to dam it


There’s a widely-held view that, to extract power from the Severn Estuary, you don’t have a choice: you have to build a large-scale barrage such as the Cardiff-Weston or the Shoots Barrage. If the environmental cost is catastrophic, it’s too bad we have to make sacrifices.

But we don’t. There are superior, lower impact alternatives that can do the same job, without the environmental damage.

A new generation of tidal turbine
A new generation of tidal turbines, being developed at Exeter University with funding from BERR (the Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform), has the potential to match the output of any barrage proposal - with very low environmental impact. And, crucially, without damming the river.

The moorable MRev Lift and Drag turbine is ideally suited to the Severn as it can be deployed in shallow depths and a wide range of flow speeds. Its compact size and flexibility means turbine arrays can be tailored precisely to a location. It also works on the flow and ebb (barrages only work on the ebb), producing a much smoother 24-hour power output cycle than barrages.

The turbine’s exceptional efficiency means that it could match the power output of any barrage proposal. And, unlike a barrage whose lifespan could be severely curtailed by silting, it could go on and on providing power, as a truly renewable energy source.

The problem with silty estuaries
Supporters of the Severn barrage often cite the small-scale success of La Rance in Brittany. Sure, it has worked well, but La Rance is not a silty estuary. Ask the Canadians about the Bay of Fundy and you get a different picture. Over there, silt has caused massive problems. No barrage proposal has satisfactorily addressed the massive problem of silting. In the case of the Severn, it would impede the efficiency of a barrage and reduce its useful working life. In short, barrage tidal power on a large-scale in a silty estuary is not a proven technology.

The need for transparency and scientific objectivity
As the debate moves on, one thing is absolutely essential. Tidal power solutions must be assessed on the grounds of technical efficiency, financial cost and environmental impact. It should be recognised that some of the engineering consultancies and sponsored “academics” involved in the consultation process have a vested interest in the construction of a multi-billion pound barrage. Can their advice be treated as wholly objective?

Same old barrage of misinformation


I must congratulate Jonathan Porritt for a beautiful and expensive presentation on BBC Wales “Week in / Week Out”. My fear is that one of the previous leaders in the environmental debate is being misled by the very commercial pressures that he wished to harness. Jonathan is presenting with great conviction and passion, the outmoded half-truths developers have been spouting for years to get a great construction project underway and feed the profits of their shareholders. This deception and manipulation deeply saddens me.

One has to ask, who is financing this slick presentation and how were they able to convince the BBC to present such a one sided and self-interested presentation on a national issue? This amounts simply to propaganda. I take my hat off to the consortium of construction companies who are straining at the leash to start pouring concrete into the river with their “get rich quick scheme”.

Clearly misleading

The barrage proposals were spoken of as “proven technology”. This is unfortunately simply untrue. There are no schemes like this any where in the world. Jonathan has fallen for one of the simple deceptions being pushed by industry that the tidal power plant in La Rance is comparable with plans for the Severn. Firstly the Rance River is tiny. The structure there is more like a bridge. And fundamentally, the water is crystal clear and not bit like the magnificent brown Severn. The important thing here and something the pro-barrage scientists continually gloss over is silt. Silt on a massive scale, silt that could render a barrage a dead lump of giant concrete in a stinking life-less river in a matter of decades. If anything has been proven about barrages, it is that they don’t work in silty estuaries. Scientists with years of experience on the Severn and similar estuaries worldwide are trying to warn us, but their voices are being brushed aside by the developers and Jonathan is blinkering himself and believing what he is told about the evidence.

In the program, much is made of Roger Falconer’s research in Cardiff University. I have no doubt that he is a well read and canny man. But his models have glaringly obvious flaws. The extensive plastic models are shown with steep sides and pumping clear water. This further promotes the myth that the Severn is like La Rance. So why is such a clever man, pushing these misleading models? What is his agenda? Could the fact that his research is sponsored by a Halcrow, a construction company be skewing his perspective? Is this the manipulative hand of industry influencing science for its own ends?

Old beliefs

Things have moved on since these old plans were first brought to the table. Jonathan, with his alarmist view of looming catastrophe, would do well to take his head out of the sand and look at the advances in technology. Devices now exist that would allow us to generate tidal power from the Severn forever, true renewable energy.

The pointless and emotive sacrifice of a fully functioning river system to the gods of climate change is a misguided indulgent “green” luxury. Jonathan’s “mega green” project is simply not what he is claiming. I fear his well-earned reputation as the “high priest” of environmentalism is being tarnished by a diet of manipulative misinformation.

Is a barrage a renewable energy source?


The Sustainable Development Commission states that, because of siltation, a Severn barrage could lose half its capacity within just 10 years. The Government defines renewable energy as being inexhaustible. Can a barrage across the Severn be described as producing “renewable” energy if it “uses up” the resource, which is the funnel shaped estuary?

Government studies show that silty estuaries are not suitable for tidal range storage schemes like barrages and lagoons. In Canada, where similar schemes have been tried, whole estuaries have been become blocked with vast expanses of mud. How long could the Severn estuary produce power in this state?

If the Severn flowed with crystal clear water like La Rance in France, then a barrage might work. But La Rance’s geology is totally different with tidal power produced in an estuary with steep granite sides. Even so, silting problems here have meant this pilot scheme has not been rolled out.

Learning from a costly Canadian mistake

Prof Simon Haslett from Newport University has studied the Severn for over ten years, he said:

“The Canadians have been experimenting with tidal power generation in the Bay of Fundy for many years, building a barrage across one of its tributaries as long ago as 1984.

The consequences have convinced them that building a barrage is inefficient, has many undesirable environmental impacts and is unsightly.

For the Canadians the idea of a barrage is now history and doesn’t even get raised as an option during tidal power debates.”

It’s mud and it sticks

Dr Graham Daborn, a world-leading expert on estuaries, points out that estuarine silt can’t be modelled in the same way as sand - a non-sticky grain. As a living thing containing mini molluscs, bacteria and worms, silt deposits are stickier than sand and do not simply wash away. In fact, silt accumulations could be around 80 times stronger than traditional modelling predicts. He states that, “such accumulations would quickly fill up an estuary”.

The harnessing of truly renewable energy is possible in the Severn using tidal stream turbines. These are devices placed in the tidal current a little like underwater windmills. Canada is already embracing this leading edge technology in the Bay of Fundy - with turbines produced right here in the UK! The latest tidal stream devices are perfect for the shallow Severn.

To continue down the blinkered path of barrages and tidal storage solutions is fruitless. Not only is it exorbitantly expensive for the UK taxpayer, it is unlikely to work for long, it will destroy an irreplaceable resource and leave an indelible scar on our landscape. We need to help our Government embrace more effective, lower impact and truly renewable technologies.

Stuart Ballard
Save Our Severn

Silting up the Severn, loss of resorts’ beaches.


New silt modeling methods by Dr Graham Daborn, Acadia University Centre for Estuarine research, Nova Scotia, helps us understand just how fast mud is deposited. A Severn barrage could lead to the beaches of Wales and the South West being plastered with a living slime of mud.

Traditional models like those now being used on the Severn, treat silt in the same way as sand, a non-sticky grain. Silt however is a living thing. It is full of tiny life. These mini molluscs, bacteria and worms secrete mucus that hold the sediments together. Dr Daborn’s studies have shown that this produces deposits 80 times stronger than traditional models expect and which do not wash away. He states that, ’such accumulations would quickly fill up an estuary’.

The outdated models are being used right now to give misleading information to the company doing the feasibility study. Using incorrect modeling has lead to disasters in the past. Dr Daborn gives three examples in Canada where this has lead to barrages being constructed resulting in massive sediment deposits choking the river, leading to flooding and blocking harbours and destroying fisheries. Mud was deposited at a rate of 15cms per month. This mud now extends 11km down stream of the barrage and is still growing. On the Severn this would plaster the beaches of the SW and South Wales with a living slime of mud. The beaches would be gone.

Silt arrives in the Severn from both direction leading to choking mud downstream of a barrage and silting of the ‘head pond’ above it. Resulting in loss to the economies of coastal resorts and harbours and increased flooding above and below the barrage and loss of generating capacity.

It is time we admit the fact that the Severn Estuary is not suitable for a barrage. Research by Dr. Daborn and other experts from around the world shows it simply just would not work.

Full extract of Dr. Daborn’s barrage study can be seen here:

Gloucestershire County Council misinformed about barrage proposal


Gloucestershire County Council are being lead headlong into a mire by misinformation about the proposed Severn barrage. Barry Dare, Council leader, is being misinformed and in turn is misleading people. He seems to be under the impression that a barrage would produce cheap electricity. Any electricity produced from a barrage would be very expensive. The study prepared by the National Trust and nine others NGOs released last week, states any electricity would be very expensive and would equate to bigger bills for all. Gloucester County Council should be calling on the Government to spend money earmarked for the Severn on a ‘Green Energy Zone’ - micro generation and insulation for all, encourage ‘Green Technology’ to the area, boost the regions economy and importantly provide proper flood management for Glos and Tewks. Studies have shown that a barrage would increase the chances of flooding in Glos and Tewks by reducing the rivers capacity to transport water away. It would also increase flooding down stream. Who would pay for dealing with this? A barrage is not suitable for the silty Severn and not the way to reach 15% renewables by 2020 there are cheaper better ways. Experts believe even the feasibility study is a waste of money especially as it being undertaken by one of companies proposing a barrage.