Dredging work creates lost Broads island

Anthony CarrollGround breaking dredging work to recreate a lost spit of land that vanished decades ago on the Broads is due to start today.Anthony Carroll

Ground breaking dredging work to recreate a lost spit of land that vanished decades ago on the Broads is due to start today.

Broads Authority dredgers will be removing deep of layers of silt and sediment from Heigham Sound on the Upper Thurne.

In the first scheme of its kind for the region, the dredged material will then be used to recreate a spit of land that once separated Heigham Sound from Duck Broad and existed up to 1946 at least before it was last to erosion and grazing geese.

The new 20m by 20m island will be formed by using inter locking high wire gabion baskets to form a perimeter into which the dredged material can be dumped into.

If the island creation pilot scheme proves a success in creating a vibrant wildlife habitat then the whole of the former one hectare spit could be restored by using 1,000 gabion baskets.

The island project was dreamed up by the Broads Authority because it needed a way to dispose of the mounds of dredged material from the navigation improvement work to remove up to 90cm deep silted up material.

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The dredging work will increase the depth and width of navigation channels along Heigham Sound, which leads to Hickling Broad and Horsey Mere.

When the plans were first announced in December it led to anglers from the Norwich and District Pike Club fearing that plumes of dormant fish killing prymnesium algae would be stirred up by the work.

However the Broads Authority has secured more than �10,000 of funding to make sure the dredging does not stir up any algae, including installing impermeable silt curtains of dredgers to limit the release of sediment.

Water quality tests will also be carried out on regular basis to check for prymnesium algae.

Rob Rogers, the Broads Authority head of construction and facilities, said: 'The project team has worked to address concerns over prymnesium and aesthetic levels raised during consultation stages.

'The water sampling is showing very low levels of prymnesium and favourable conditions for dredging. The sampling will continue for some weeks after the project to ensure good scientific data is gathered.'

The high wire gabion baskets used in the work are the brainchild of Broads Authority engineer Robert Savage who saw how the British Army used them as barricades in Afghanistan by filling them with soil and rock.

Any further expansion of the island will be agreed after discussions between the Broads Authority and Natural England, Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency.