Blame game in full swing

Published: Friday, 05 June 2020

PROBLEMS with no water in the canals and low water in the rivers.

The season for playing the blame game is in full swing again I see.  For here we go once again, just as the boating season commences, the system starts closing down and CaRT, as usual, are blaming everyone or everything but itself, writes John Coxon.

Lame excuses

They have come out with some wizard lame excuses this time—some quite imaginative too but lame excuses all the same and if they think we are going to fall for them they are very much mistaken.

We have from them 'Navigation opportunities along the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals this summer will be restricted due to the combined effect of reduced reservoir capacity and one of the driest springs on record'. Then the Leeds & Liverpool and the Calder & Hebble navigations close because there's no water for them either!

They tell us, 'Reservoir holding is currently only 62% of capacityfar below what is required for unrestricted use of the canal at this stage of the year. (The canal relies on a regular supply of rainfall throughout the year to replenish resources.)'

Already flowed out to sea

They go on to say 'Our main objective is to keep the canals open during the peak holiday months of July and August and the Trust’s operational and water management teams are working hard to conserve enough water now to make this happen...'.  Seems a bit too late for that now does it not? The water's already flowed out to sea!

Passing the buck by the statement '...water shortages caused by the combined effect of reduced reservoir capacity and one of the driest springs on record'  has to be the lamest most fanciful excuse yet dreamed up by CaRT!

Wettest winter definitely

Do they think we boaters have the memory span of a goldfish?  Okay so one of the driest springs it may be, but the wettest winter definitely!   We have been told by the weather experts we had the wettest winter on record up to the end of February and as we are not goldfish surely we can all still remember the resulting floods?

The rivers Trent, Severn, Avon, Aire, Hebble, Calder, Thames, Cherwell among others were in full flood as the memories of the press pictures we all remember showed.  Tens of thousands of people were flooded out of their homes, thousands of houses and businesses were flooded, but CaRT now try to tell us it couldn't even get it's reservoirs filled? I seem to remember at least one reservoir was filled, in fact it had so much water in it that it broke the dam! Perhaps the goldfish at CaRT don't remember that one?

No one is going to convince me the reservoirs were not full at the end of February after the rain we had just gone through by then!  At one point I measured the time one bout of rain lasted, it was 76 hoursnon-stop!

No boat movement for two months

Then, in less than three weeks, and still in the winter season, we are all locked down for this virus so around 95% of boat movement ceases.  No real drawdown from reservoir stocks takes place for two months.  CaRT says 'Reservoir holding is currently only 62% of capacity'.  So, one has to ask, how have they managed to lose 38% of the reservoir stocks when there have been practically no boat movements for two months?

Are they trying to tell us that 38% of their reservoirs have had to be emptied because they are unsafe?  Surely not, they've only just finished telling us they have been inspected and that they are all okay now!

They tell us the canals rely 'on a regular supply of rainfall throughout the year to replenish resources'.   Well there's a lame excuse if ever I heard one.

How did they cope?

If that is how it was designed we need to ask how did they cope 100-200 years ago when they had hot dry summers every year with months of minimal rainfall for up to six months at a time . Did goods stop being transported?  Did all the boating families go on extended holidays? 

Or was there always sufficient water because they had managers who knew what they were doing?  Managers who ensured that the reservoirs were full in the winter months, managers who ensured that the system didn't leak it away 24/7 and people on the banks who knew what they were doing and reduced water loss to a minimum?

Low water in rivers

CaRT have sent out notices telling us that a boat has run onto the sand bar below Stoke Lock on the Trent and another boat has unfortunately become stuck across the navigation near Ratcliffe Lock 58 on the Soar.  It was also stuck on a sandbar!

One thing missing from all these notices was, and as far as I can still see, is a warning from CaRT to boaters not to move along these rivers because there is high risk of grounding due to the low water levels.  All we get from them is to ask boaters to just'proceed with care'!

One place stated that is shallow is next to Barton Island on the Trent and CaRT say it is sediment movement.  I do not think this is very likely at that location as the river flow is higher than elsewhere along that part of the river and sediment will not normally deposit in high flows.

Will not prevent grounding

I think it more likely that the river is so low that boats are coming into contact with the normal bottom undulations or sand bars.  The normal tactic of staying mid-stream will not prevent grounding in these circumstances.

When are they going to get experienced people who know what they are doing writing these notices?  It is well known in boating circles that if you do not have sonar or there is a buoyed channel you do not know how deep the water is and proceeding with care will not stop you running aground when the water is so shallow!

Low level warnings

At the time of writing, all the flow gauges between Shardlow and North Muskham on the Trent show the level either very near or below the lowest normal range levels. In my view, navigation along any part of this stretch of the Trent is inadvisable at the moment and CaRT should have put out a low water level warning—but then again—that would go against their 'better by water' or 'wellbeing' spiel wouldn't it?  And we can't have that can we?

Though CaRT have not put out such a warning, I recommend any boat on a river not to move at the moment as the risk of grounding is much higher than normal and the usual channel width will be very much narrower if it exists at all.

Perhaps we need someone in the bows swinging the lead like they had on the old wooden ships of years gone by?  Someone from CaRT p'raps, as they seem to be so good at it?

Before we leave I would like to take the opportunity to thank CaRT for looking after it's workforce by ensuring that all boaters maintain at least the two metres recommended distance when interacting with them.

Hypocritical as you can get

This is about as hypocritical as you can get when it was the same people at CaRT who would not ensure that the public kept the same distance from us boaters over the last three months during this virus pandemic.  Talk about double standards, or as has already been said, is it the truth that they didn't want to close the towpaths so they can offload them onto the councils next year?

Boaters remember this, as it's our lives they are playing financial games with, and it's us who will be paying for it!