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Enabling a rapid response to flood defence breach

Posted: 28-Apr-2014

ARC-Boat survey data used to map scour hole in embankment breachStorms around the UK in December 2013 caused significant damage to a number of coastal structures. Among these were flood defence embankments in Teesside and Lincolnshire. ARC-Boats, innovative remote control survey boats produced by HR Wallingford in partnership with the Environment Agency, were deployed at both locations to assess the extent of the damage to these structures. They were used to rapidly provide data that could inform their plans for remedial action.

In Teesside, severe weather and a storm surge resulted in the highest tide recorded in 150 years. This caused significant damage to a flood embankment at Seal Sands near Billingham, scouring a hole in the structure that was some 70-80 metres across. The breach allowed large volumes of sea water in to a nature reserve listed as a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest and threatened local industry and residents.

ARC-Boat used to survey embankment breach in TeesideAs the full extent of the damage to the embankment was not visible, even at low tide, an ARC-Boat fitted with an ADCP was used overnight to survey the area in around an hour at high tide. The data collected was used by staff on site to produce a 3D map of the hole. This enabled the Environment Agency to act swiftly and effectively to repair the damage. Initially, Chinook helicopters were enlisted to bring in construction materials; later a temporary road was built to provide access by land.

“In the past, this type of survey would have been conducted by a team from a boat using instrumentation mounted on poles,” explains Nick Everard, technical adviser in the Environment Agency’s hydrometry and telemetry team. “In both Teesside and Lincolnshire the deployment of the ARC-Boat was a great success. It allowed us to carry out surveys very quickly and to collect high quality data that let us take swift action to protect these areas. Importantly, our staff could stay safely on land throughout.”

 Images courtesy of the Environment Agency.

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