IWA award for Environment Agency

September 2018 - It seems counter-intuitive, at best, that the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) – one of the Environment Agency’s harshest critics – should present a prestigious 55-year-old trophy to Environment Agency staff as thanks for their hard work in helping boaters, reports Alec Wood.

The IWA made the gesture at their Festival of Water at St Neots where hundreds of boats and thousands of visitors gathered around the River Great Ouse over the bank holiday weekend.

Since 1963, the Best Working Boat award has been presented to working vessels, and this year it went to two EA boats – the Ouse II Know and Ouseabout.

Irven Forbes, the Environment Agency’s Anglian waterways manager, said: “We’re delighted with this recognition of our teams’ hard work to maintain our waterways for people and wildlife.

“This summer, the hot, dry weather presented some challenges like weed growth, fallen trees and lower levels on some of our navigations, so we’re extremely pleased to have made a contribution to a very successful festival.

“We’ve had so many great comments from visitors about the Great Ouse and the River Nene – it’s given us a real boost to help people enjoy them while getting closer to nature.”

Although the IWA has been critical of the way certain parts of the East Anglian waterways have been closed and allowed to become un-navigable, the award recognises the efforts of the team over many months to make sure boaters could get to the festival.

The men working for the agency on the ground dealt with a crisis just days before the event, when Hemingford Lock on the River Great Ouse suffered a mechanical failure and was fixed in under 48 hours.

And over the previous months, the workforce refurbished eight of the region’s busiest locks used by around 7,000 boaters every year, revamping 10 landings, clearing a number of large fallen trees, de-shoaling on the rivers Great Ouse and Nene, and spending an extra £60k on de-silting the tidal Great Ouse at Denver, Salters Lode and the Old Bedford on top of the regular annual de-silting and weed-clearance.

To make it easier for boats to navigate, teams also made half a dozen passes to clear duckweed from the Old West channel – work that must be done carefully in hot summer conditions to avoid having a negative impact on the environment and wildlife.

Environment Agency management is trumpeting the work as part of its £2.5m investment in the 353 miles of navigable Anglian waterways.

Most boaters may see it as a tribute to the hard working men on the ground trying to achieve as much as possible within a strictly limited budget.

Photos: IWA tribute to the men who do the work.

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