EMERGENCY FLOOD control procedures on the £94M Cardiff Bay Barrage project are being urgently revised to meet an Environment Agency deadline set after an instruction to drain the new lake was ignored.
Unless an amended barrage operating manual is approved by the Agency tomorrow, the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation will have to comply with a 'disimpoundment direction' notice served on it last Friday, and open the sluices.
Until last week, the CBDC could close the sluices under two week temporary impoundment approvals, pending Agency checks on water quality and flood prevention measures.
Agency doubts over the emergency operating procedures at times of high flood risk has caused the dispute.
'The direction to disimpound was handed to a security guard at 6.00pm on Friday night, after engineering staff had gone home,' a CBDC spokesman said. 'It required us to disimpound by midnight. We immediately appealed the direction, and the sluices remain closed.'
Permission to close the computer controlled sluices is vital to the final stages of the project, as essential dredging operations are only possible with long term high water levels.
Three sensors are designed to monitor water levels behind the barrier and open the sluices if they approach 900mm above the maximum design levels. The Agency has been unhappy with the emergency operation of the sluices for some time and matters came to a head at a meeting with the CBDC last Thursday.
An Agency spokesman said the priority was to protect local residents. 'We issued the direction to disimpound when the temporary approval expired on 1 December and it became clear that CBDC had no intention of disimpounding voluntarily.'
He added: 'We were concerned about the computers controlling the sluices, which were operating in a random manner. There was an obvious risk of flooding if such a key part of the system was unreliable.'
A three hour meeting on Monday failed to resolve the dispute, despite outside pressure from First Secretary of the Welsh Assembly Alun Michael. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Agency claimed the CBDC had 'acknowledged problems with operations of the computer- controlled sluice gates'.
It added that if the revised operating procedures did not satisfy the Agency, it would 'expect immediate action to comply with the direction and drain the impoundment'.
The CBDC continues to claim there has never been any flood risk to Cardiff. 'This is a technical glitch with one of the level sensors, which is over sensitive,' the CBDC spokesman said on Tuesday. 'The other two are working perfectly. We are confident we can resolve the impasse by Friday.'
Cardiff Bay Development Corporation: (01222) 585858