Important maintenance work is taking place this week on the Afon Rhyd-Hir in Pwllheli as Natural Resources Wales (NRW) removes a large build-up of mud, silt and reeds which has formed a small island in the river.
Engineers plan to remove around 3000 cubic metres of the mud and silt over a period of four weeks using excavators and dumpers.
If left unattended, experts are concerned that the island could continue to grow and affect the natural flow of the water, increasing the risk of flooding to the town.
The work continues despite the discovery of a rare ‘mudwort’ plant which was found during pre-work surveys on the banks of the river at the entrance to the harbour.
Mudwort is a tiny flowering plant which lives on the edge of brackish pools. It is found widely in the southern hemisphere from South Africa to Australia and on the eastern coast of America, but in Europe is restricted to just a few sites on the northwest coast of Wales.
As such it is protected by UK law, and its discovery meant that an alternative access route for machinery had be identified to prevent causing it damage.
Dafydd Roberts, Flood Specialist at Natural Resources Wales explains:
“It’s important that this work goes ahead to make sure that the 85 properties which are at risk of flooding in Pwllheli aren’t left vulnerable.
“It was a real team effort, but working with our own conservationists, we quickly managed to find an alternative access point to the river which has allowed the work to go ahead without damaging the rare plant.
“We’ll now use the material we dig up from the river to improve the access route so we can get to the river again quickly should we need to in the future.
“We can’t always prevent flooding from happening, but where we can, we’ll take action to reduce the risk to people’s homes and businesses.”
This important work is a short-term measure to protect the people of Pwllheli who are at risk of flooding both from the Afon Rhyd Hir, the Afon Erch and the sea.
NRW, working with Gwynedd County Council, is currently undertaking an assessment of the area to see if there is potential to develop a new flood scheme to improve flood protection.