On Monday Dr Neville Morgan and I went to Council HQ in Newtown St Boswells for a 1 hour meeting with SBC Project Manager of The Selkirk Flood Prevention Scheme (www.selkirkfloodscheme.com). It was a most useful and informative meeting with much ground covered, so much so that the meeting lasted 2hrs 10mins.
Mr Price gave a resume of where the project was as of today's date and agreed with us that the run up to today was very poorly handled and that The Border Telegraph had printed a story to catch the reader's attention and pay lip service to the truth! The council will release a press statement this week that will reflect the true picture.
Yes lowering the level of the loch is one of the proposals (one of nineteen which are soon to be whittled down) which would entail lowering St Mary's loch by 500mm during "at risk "periods (winter)and not 2- 10ft as was commonly believed. The confusion had arisen from a lack of information from the project team, it's the old story if there is no news then someone will make it up!
The regulators at the foot of St Mary's will require some work to allow them to have a much increased range of movement to allow water to be discharged more rapidly. Dr Morgan has asked for some hydrology figures to be released to assist him in fully understanding the problems. Mr Price said that he would be happy to do so providing Scottish Water was in agreement.
Mr Price has taken on board the need for more effective dissemination of information and the two key ways of keeping up to date will be by newsletter and the projects website(link above) a number of public meetings have also been scheduled.
We were heartened by the sensible thought that has now arisen in fact our proposal about leaving the loch as it is, lowering it around October and taking pre emptive action (Open the tap) if heavy rain is forecast! appears to be the goal of the team, this was music to our ears! A victory of common sense over bureaucratic intransigence!
What is required to effect an injection of flexibility into Scottish Water is a document called a CAR Licence (Controlled Activity Regulations) http://www.sepa.org.uk/water/water_regulation/car_application_forms.aspx
This licence obtained from SEPA would allow Scottish Water to discharge water in a pre emptive fashion rather than watch the water spill over causing flooding. This really highlights the red tape inherent in these inflexible dinosaurs that are the public utilities! Someone needs to tear through these organisations carrying out a root and branch pruning and dusting with common sense powder! Doesn't look like the Con/dems have got the bottle, but hopefully somebody will one of these days! We were given a fascinating insight into the workings of these public bodies; you would not believe the hoops people have to jump through to achieve their aims. In the normal way of working a simple yes or no could be given in minutes not so with these organisations. I am beginning to see what the Con/dems should be seeing – waste, bureaucracy, inefficiency, and profligacy with public money that requires immediate attention!
Our fears with regard to the fishing have in the most part been allayed as it looks like our fish stocks will be unaffected and our Arctic Charr project will remain on course. We have supplied Mr Price with the relevant parameters required for the wellbeing of our fish stock and these will be incorporated into the final strategy. He also tried to assure us that in the past the loch level had been very low and apparently in the 1960s there was no connection to the Yarrow during low water, the Yarrow being formed by burns draining into it downstream of the loch. This we said was all very well but as no migratory fish/Trout/eels could enter or leave the loch the bio community was not what it should have been and as such this was an unsatisfactory situation!We also stressed that the bathymetries require to be studied to highlight areas that would become very deep at the water perimeter if the level was dropped beyond a certain level.
It appears the project team were unaware of the slipway and pier at Rodono, this has now been corrected and contact will be established in the near future.
Some proposals will still require dissection, one such proposal asks for the capacity of St Mary's loch to be increased giving increased holding capacity in the event of a flood. This of course raises the level of the loch and would not be seen as such a good idea by Henderland farm, Tibbie Shiels or the sailing club.
We welcome the open approach now being taken it can only be to the benefit of all concerned. We were given an assurance that after significant events consultation will take place and the use of public meetings will be utilised as far as is possible. Our concern about having an access officer put forward our views has also largely been set to rest as we have given to Mr Price a list of our projects, concerns and future aspirations and we will review the minutes of every meeting of the core steering group and will if necessary demand a meeting with Mr Price to set straight the anomaly.
How refreshing to meet an agent of a public body who is open, approachable, above board and with no hidden agenda! The outcome of the consultation exercise may not please everyone but it won't be for the lack of trying on the part of Conor Price!
Footnote – the local population and almost everyone I have talked to was of the mind that management of water flow (in its simplest form opening and closing the regulators in a pre-emptive manner) would go a long way towards solving the problem of flooding downstream of the loch. Much muddling around by statutory bodies and doubtless many thousands of pounds spent appear to be bringing these agencies heading towards the same view.
It does make you wonder does it not, that in this pc world everything has to be taken to the nth level complicating the most simple of issues leading to the employment of people in jobs that are of no use whatsoever to society!