Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners have announced a long term dredging and saltmarsh creation programme to improve channel depths and to restore vital intertidal marshes

Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners (BHC) face the daunting task of maintaining required depths in the harbour’s navigation channels, whilst balancing the needs of the natural environment around them.

As with many harbours in Essex and on the East Coast, mud and siltation is a constant challenge, but removing too much mud can imbalance the local ecosystem and undermine the saltmarshes that are vital for the health of the sea, for wildlife, and as natural barriers to storms and floods.

BHC have conducted a thorough process of planning, surveying, and consultation with organisations such as the Environment Agency, the Marine Management Organisation and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, as well as liaising with commercial and leisure stakeholders, local residents and other interest groups.

Brightlingsea Waterside Marina, within Brightlingsea harbour, has also been planning to dredge, and has been able to coordinate with BHC’s plans to ensure successful dredging of both the marina and the wider harbour. The areas covered by BHC’s own dredging plan will mainly produce heavy mud waste, whilst the material to be removed from the marina is a lighter silt.

Rather than create a protective wall around the marina with the dredged material as had first been suggested, the marina will being disperal dredging on the flood tide from early 2016. This will allow the silt to remain in the ‘system’ and help support saltmarshes in the harbour. Any negative impact of this will be mitigated when BHC begins its dredging of the harbour in late 2016.

Exact plans for how and where the heavier mud dredged from the harbour will be confirmed once the effeects of the marina dredge have been assessed. Following consultation with experts in the UK and Europe, plans are being drawn up for the spoil from harbour dredges to be used in a major regeneration programme for the saltmarshes.

The timetable for the dredging will aim to minimise disruption to harbour users, whilst  maximising potential for rejuvenation of the saltmarshes.  The total cost of the dredge will be in the region of £720,000. The marina dredge will be funded entirely by the marina owners. Funding of the main harbour dredge will be through a mix of BHC funds and an EU grant.

Jim Addison, the Chairman of the Harbour Commissioners, commented:

‘Dredging the harbour is a priority established by the Harbour Commissioners, and it essential to the sustainability of Brightlingsea as a commercial and recreational harbour.  The opportunity to work with European partners and identify solutions that will enhance and support our unique environment and habitat is welcomed.’

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