CH provided an introduction for the Board Members, who might be aware that there had been many discussions about mud and its complexities. The then WSC and now newly formed SWT had an overarching responsibility for everything that happened within the harbours in Minehead and Watchet, but that many of those responsibilities were delegated through the lease to Watchet Harbour Marina Ltd. The delegated responsibility included the dredging of the marina area by WHM Ltd. A Mud Working Group had been set up as a sub group of the WHAC predominantly because majority of the WHAC meetings were taken up with discussion on the mud. The removal of mud from the marina was a complex task as certain permissions were required to complete the necessary work and there were also financial implications to consider. The gold standard that the groups hoped to achieve was to get both the outer harbour and the marina back to a clean bed rock through a full depth dredge and the implementation of a Water Injection Dredge (WID) to maintain that level. WSC at the time had a very small budget for dredging, which had diminished over time which did not cover the cost of the works needed. The marina operators had carried out some works over the years but recently had carried out very little works. A cut and suck dredger had been used but was now out of commission. Through the Mud Working Group, WSC/SWT had established a good working relationship with the marina at a local level and it was understood that they needed to work collaboratively to clear both the outer harbour and the marina at the same time for the dredging works to be a success. The Mud Working Group appeared to be working successfully and they were in the process of drawing up a report which would hopefully become part of a funding package, however, who they would approach for funding was unknown at present. The report was also likely to be heard by SWT’s Scrutiny. Part of this might be to consider the allocation of funds to the area of work. Dr Nunney had assisted the marina with compiling the information. Last year a WID was brought over from Cardiff and was used to help gather information to show how much mud could be cleared with each tide versus how much mud came in on each tide. The WID was a success in terms of the amount of material is could move. A WID had been commissioned by the marina and was a privately owned piece of equipment, the arrival of which had been delayed. The Harbour Revision Order meant that WSC/SWT could give permission for a dredge without having to go to the MMO for a licence. WSC at the time had given the marina permission to dredge subject to an environmental impact assessment (EIA). The WID had now finally arrived and CH had met with the marina owner. The WID still required some work to bring it into commission which would be carried out onsite. The marina operator believed that on paper the WID should work to the standard they had predicted. However, it had been built to order, so some issues were to be anticipated. CH had discussions with the marina owner and manager about the possibility of buying their services to dredge the outer harbour at a reasonable cost as it would benefit both SWT and the marina if both areas were maintained. CH requested that the Harbour Board granted permission for the marina to dredge without the EIA as the current document was not as up to date as we would like it to be. A revision of the EIA would need to be commissioned externally as there was no one within the council who could do it. Concern was raised that if the permission was not granted, the WID could not be used and CH stressed the importance of the dredge to the marina, the town and the local businesses who relied upon it for their trade.
MS advised that the original EIA had been written about mud that had gathered over 100 years prior to the marina being installed and that the mud in the marina now was not as high a risk. He supported CH recommendation.
LW supported CH recommendation and queried who was on the Mud Working Group. CH would forward the information direct to her.
CH gave an update on the marina gate. Currently the gate was permanently open to help prevent any damage being caused. The marina operator planned to cut a channel from the outer harbour and to clear the gate area first to help the situation.
TV supported CH recommendation but agreed that an up to date EIA needed to be commissioned.
TV queried whether Minehead harbour experienced the same problem with mud. CH advised that Minehead and Watchet were very different. CB and IC gave information on the shingle bank and the impact were it not to be maintained
PM praised CH for the report and how he had clearly set out the history and the current situation faced by the marina. He advised that the marina operator suggested there was an EIA from 2006 that could be used and queried what the lifespan of an EIA was. CH had spoken to the harbour master who advised that the document from 2000 could not be used as there had been some changes to the infrastructure since then, one change was that a marina had been built since then.
PM highlighted the inspection that was due and that the mud was likely to be mentioned. He supported CH recommendation and agreed that officers continued to look for a current EIA or commission a new one. He advised that a maintenance programme also needed to be drawn up as they would not get funding if those documents were not in place. PM raised concern that the WID was privately owned and that it could be sent elsewhere for months at a time. He requested whether a formal agreement could be put in place to prevent that from happening.
AH supported CH recommendation but raised a concern on what the penalty could be for allowing the permission without an EIA. CH advised that historically the MMO have intervened where they felt that dredging was not covered by the appropriate documentation, this intervention had been to stop the activity. SWT would then present a good case to show that the EIA used previously was sufficient to cover the permission granted.
LW queried how much it cost to commission an EIA. CH gave an approximate cost and advised that it could be less because a revision to the original document may be all that is required.
AH queried whether the EIA covered both the inner and outer harbour. CH yes and he was happy for the EIA to be in SWT name.
Resolved that the Harbour Board approved the permission to Watchet Harbour Marina Ltd to undertake water injection dredging based on the current EIA and further sought any other locally held EIA’s and if appropriate commissioned the revision of an EIA for all dredging methods.