River Hull Wreck Removal

Hull is in the top ten flood risk areas in the UK. One important contributor is the River Hull itself, conveying water from a catchment of approximately 980km2 to the Humber. Pell Frischmann’s River Hull Integrated Catchment Study highlighted the significant risk that wrecks in the river caused for local flooding. As a result, a programme was devised to facilitate wreck removal.

Pell Frischmann provided expertise in river-working, ecology and environmental assessments in order to improve the river flow and reduce the area at risk of fluvial flooding. Following the decline in barge use over previous decades, numerous vessels were found to have sunk in the River Hull due to neglect. These boats restricted the flow in the river channel, decreasing the capacity of the river to convey flood water. Although the removal of vessels was an emotive issue, we worked with the client’s legal team cohesively, preventing any delays to the works. Liaison with other stakeholders: Marine Management Organisation, local fishing groups and Natural England.

To ensure permission and funding, we supplied evidence verifying that the sunken boats were a flood risk. To obtain proof, we undertook a comprehensive model study to discover the benefits gained from removing the boats. This included examining how many residential and commercial properties could be removed from the flood area, the benefits of the space created with reduced flood risk and a cost analysis to calculate how much we would save the local economy by reducing flood damage.

The evidence demonstrated the value of the project and granted the Environment Agency’s (EA) power to serve notice on sunken vessels causing a flood risk in a main river. The results also allowed the cost-benefit analysis to justify funding from the Local Economic Partnership’s Humber Local Growth Fund. This funding application reflected on the tourism opportunities from improving the amenity, navigation, habitat, and local business. For this reason, the project expanded from a flood risk project to a scheme that looked to improve the surrounding area of River Hull.

The River Hull Board set the completion date on September 2017; due to the migration of protected lamprey over winter, the pressure to secure permits increased. We ensured that all environmental and statutory constraints, such as the Environmental Permit, European Protected Species Licence and Water Framework Directive (WFD) assessment, were approved on time to allow contractors to remove all the boats on schedule. To guarantee this, we designed and effectively adhered to a tight programme; meetings were held to include all stakeholders to encourage the efficient flow of communication from all perspectives.

A habitat survey found otters present in one of the boats; as the site was identified as a resting place and not a natal holt, obtaining a licence to remove the boat and providing an alternative habitat was simpler. A method statement for the boat removal was required for licence applications to ensure that the local wildlife would not be disturbed. Early contractor engagement highlighted that boats would be removed in-channel and transported to a single crane located at an industrial area, via a moving pontoon, minimising disturbance to the river banks. Collaboratively, we created a fish mitigation strategy with the EA’s fisheries expert, the catchment coordinator and the client. Trial refuge structures and a floating island were installed, creating slack and sheltered water.

We carried out further works in the Hull Catchment, with our report examining the feasibility of navigation authority for the River Hull winning the ICE ‘Sir John Fowler Award’ in 2018.

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