Lewes MP welcomes breakthrough for Cuckmere River

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield has welcomed news that the Environment Agency (EA) is investing money to restart the annual dredging of Cuckmere River.

Mrs Caulfield said the EA has agreed to spend £95,000 to tackle the problems the river has had in recent months with flooding in the winter and dying fish in the summer.

The announcement comes after a meeting last week where the MP met with the EA to work out an action plan, alongside the parish council and the Friends of Cuckmere.

Mrs Caulfield said: “A breakthrough was reached when it was announced by the Environment Agency that they would be spending £95,000 to restart annual dredging of the river mouth over the next five years.

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield at Cuckmere River

“This will ensure the river continues to flow and will prevent flooding this winter and ensure better management of the river.

“In addition, it was agreed to look at handing over the management of the river to the Friends of Cuckmere and the local water management board to ensure that a more holistic management of the river, in terms of looking after the meanders and sluice gates, can start to happen.”

Following last year’s flooding, as a result of lack of dredging, Mrs Caulfield supported the Pevensey & Cuckmere Water Level Management Board in its one-off dredging of the river and has been working with them to convince the EA to devolve the powers to dredge the river to them.

This summer, a lack of dredging led to problems with hundreds of dead fish in the river as oxygen levels in the water plummeted as the lack of dredging stopped the flow of water.

Mrs Caulfield continued to lobby the EA, which has now begun dredging the river again.

She added: “Whenever the dredging of the Cuckmere is stopped we see problems, whether it is flooding of local fields or the mass death of fish in the river.

“It is great news that we have reached this deal with the Environment Agency to solve these problems and I am sure residents will welcome this news.”

An Environment Agency spokesman added: “The Environment Agency has secured £100,000 of Flood Defence Grant in Aid to reduce flood risk to the community at Alfriston over the next five years.

“We will be using this to clear the river mouth when our trigger levels are met to ensure the water does not back up and flood local houses and roads. The first of these clearance works has now been completed.

“These works are classified as flood defences so if the river blocks in the summer but levels are low, we will not clear the river.

“However, we are exploring a partnership with the water level management board for them to contribute to the project so we can carry out more frequent clearances.”

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