One of the UK’s largest managed realignment and habitat creation schemes has been completed and opened to the sea.
The Steart Coastal Management Project, which started in May 2012, aims to improve flood defences while creating over 400ha of natural habitats.
The scheme features intertidal saltmarsh and freshwater wetland on the Steart Peninsula an exposed coastal area located on the north Somerset coast at Bridgwater Bay.
It was designed and supervised by CH2M Hill and the construction phase carried out by Team Van Oord, on behalf of the Environment Agency.
The project will provide protection for the village of Steart against flooding from the River Parrett. Steart Drove, the only road that links Steart village with surrounding communities, will also enjoy improved protection as a result of the project’s completion.
Now that it has been opened to the sea, the Steart Peninsula scheme is expected to flood properly for the first time within the coming week.
The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust will be the site managers now the scheme is complete.
“It is immensely rewarding to see this scheme finally opened,” said CH2M Hill project manager Toby Wilson. “We had a large team of people working on this programme over several years progressing through detailed modelling, assessment and design before the construction works started.
“The final stage of connecting the site to the sea has been timed to occur on falling tides to allow a section of the old defences to be removed and a connecting channel to be dug to the River Parrett. As the tides begin to come in and out we expect the artificial channel to erode and evolve towards a new stable form.
“We have arranged an extensive field campaign to monitor these changes, the monitoring will cover longer term development of the site as it develops into a mosaic of different intertidal, brackish and freshwater habitats,” he said.