Severn Barage: University of Wales Professor discusses potential impacts

Posted on 5 November 2012
SImon-Barage

Professor Simon Haslett undertaking field research in the muddy Severn Estuary

Last weekend, Professor Simon Haslett featured on the BBC Radio Wales ‘Eye on Wales’ programme to discuss the potential impacts from the construction of a Severn Barrage.

The Severn Estuary is purported to have the second highest tidal range in the World, in the range of 15 m (45ft). With such a large amount of water to flood in and ebb out of the Estuary twice every day, the tidal currents are very powerful and it is not surprising that for over a century ways of harnessing this tidal energy have been considered.

Simon Haslett, Professor of Physical Geography at the University of Wales, has been undertaking research in the Severn Estuary and the surrounding coastal levels for 20 years, and has published numerous papers and addressed international conferences on the Severn Estuary.

In 2008, the UK Government reopened the debate on the building of a Severn Barrage and, by coincidence, a week later Professor Haslett was presenting his research at the Atlantic Geoscience Society (AGS) Colloquium in Nova Scotia, Canada.

At the end of his lecture he reported on the decision to reopen the Severn Barrage debate and was overwhelmed by questions from the delegates about why such a debate was happening at all. The conclusion at the conference was that the UK Government would be better off not considering a barrage option at all and look to other mechanisms for tapping into tidal energy.

From initial models, potential environmental impacts associated with the building of a Severn Barrage included an upstream rise in sea-level of around 3m. Research indicated that this might lead to the impedance of drainage in the Severn catchment, perhaps tens of kilometres from the coast, which might raise the water table, increase soil water-logging, and exacerbate local flooding. Other potential local impacts include loss of intertidal habitats, siltation, obscuring of intertidal archaeology, and a change in the distribution of coastal flooding.

You can listen again to Professor Simon Haslett discussing these potential impacts and his research on the BBC iPlayer Website here

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