SWATHES of Rye would have been under water after December’s tidal surge if it had not been for Environment Agency flood defences.
That was the sobering fact to emerge from the Rye Annual Meeting on Wednesday evening as members of the public paid tribute to the local Environment Agency team.
I Ian Nunn, in charge of Scots Float, said: “Every one of my team have worked tirelessly over this difficult period. The commitment has been outstanding with many giving up Christmas Day and Boxing Day to work. I cannot sing their praises enough.
“They were working around the clock to prevent flooding only to come home and hear on the television that they were rubbish.”
Mike Slavin, from Rye Harbour commented: “The local team deserve our thanks. They kept us safe and dry by their presence and their planning.
Resident Tony Bell also gave the Environment Agency a vote of public thanks.
Ian Nunn said that the old, lower, flood defence wall would have been easily topped in December with devastating results.
He told the meeting: “I cannot stress how important it is for homes to sign up to our flood warnings. There are 1,400 properties at risk from flooding in Rye, a significant proportion of the town.
“Most properties at risk are residential and I think flooding is one of the worst things that can happen to you. Myself, and most of the staff have seen the effects of flooding first hand and it is devastating.”
Commenting on the wet winter, he said: “We had five times the normal rainfall from December 23 to January 5.
“There are six types of flood risk, fluvial, from rivers; pluvial, which is water that flows across land; ground water, surface water, tidal and coastal. We have had just about every one of those types in the last few months.
“We have seen the highest recorded levels of ground water in aquifers.”
Commenting on de-silting, Mr Nunn said: “We used to dredge Strand Quay once every ten years but found it was a reasonably stable environment and there was not a lot of value in that. De-silting is more worthwhile if your area is above sea level.
“The Government instructs us that every pound we spend has to give £8 benefit in terms of flood risk prevention, which puts a strain on every penny.”
The Rye area is protected by a flood wall with 24 operational flood gates as well as containment barriers and flood control slot-in boards.
Mr Nunn said the Environment Agency is now working on getting planning permission for flood defences east of Rye from Scots Float to the Harbour Office.
A business case for the development is being put forward this month with plans likely to be submitted between 2015 and 2016. If all goes well it is hoped construction work can start in 2016 and be completed by 2018.