Hertfordshire County Council have outlined improvement works on the River Beane after the collapse of an embankment changed the flow of the chalk stream.
The collapse of the embankment has lowered the level of the Beane, which is normally controlled by a weir at the southern tip of Waterford Marshes. It has also prevented the flow of water in to the Molewood Mill Race, which has been dry since last year.
The Mill Race takes water from the River Beane and moves it to the site of the former mill in Molewood Road.
The council are working with the Environment Agency to explore options to enhance the Beane's wildlife habitat, as well as protecting the riverside Public Right of Way. This includes stabilising the bank at the site of the collapse.
The Environment Agency has prioritised some funding for the project and as a first step will clear some of the fallen trees and debris from the channel so that the extent of the breach can be better assessed. The EA will be engaging with local stakeholders to ensure that the best solution is found for the River Beane, the wider environment and local people.
The River Beane is an internationally rare chalk stream habitat which has experienced decades of degradation due to the presence of historic weirs. These structures have perpetuated slow river flow conditions, causing sedimentation over the chalk stream bed, and have formed a continual blockage to fish passage.
Following the embankement collapse, the flow rate of the river has increased and the level of the water has dropped, resulting in the river moving over cleaner gravels that are essential for chalk rivers and in providing fish spawning habitat.
It is recognised that as a consequence of the breach there has been a drop in water levels in some areas of Waterford Marsh, including the loss of flow to the Molewood Mill Race, which is a locally valued and attractive feature which provides additional freshwater habitat. There is, therefore, an ambition to explore how best to support restoration of these habitats and whether there is a feasible option to return some flow to the mill race whilst ensuring that the River Beane receives the flows it need to thrive as a chalk river.
Hertfordshire County Council
Residents have voiced concerns about the condition of the Mill Race, with a Facebook group being set up by locals to explore solutions. Supporters have recently written to the EA after collecting evidence to support a detailed impact assessment. The letter was countersigned by District and County Councillors, as well as local businesses, landowners, Beane Marshes Conservation Group, Hertford Civic Society, Stapleford Parish Council, and Molewood Residents Association.
The council and Environment Agency will be discussing options with landowners in order to progress the necessary works and put measures in place to provide permanent benefits for the river.
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