THE possibility of keeping water levels in Grands Vaux reservoir below capacity is being considered as part of plans to protect residents from future flooding, according to the Infrastructure Minister.
Deputy Tom Binet said that talks were taking place between his department and Jersey Water about whether the reservoir could be partially used as a ‘flood management tool’ by keeping it at a lower level during ‘certain months’ of the year.
He made the comments after hosting a meeting – attended by around 100 Grands Vaux residents and business owners – with Housing Minister David Warr, Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf, officers from the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment Department and representatives from Andium Homes and Jersey Water.
The meeting, which Deputy Binet admitted became ‘emotional’ at times, was held to provide residents with an update on the solutions being developed to manage flooding in the area.
In January, torrential rainfall overwhelmed drains across the Island and caused Grands Vaux reservoir to overflow. A number of residents were forced to leave their homes – some with the aid of an inflatable raft – with 18 households currently remaining in temporary or alternative accommodation while property repairs take place.
One of the residents who attended Thursday night’s meeting, Kerry Goguelin – who has launched a petition calling for the government to produce and publish a ‘flood response action plan’ – said concerns were raised over the immediate protections available should further flooding occur.
‘They are looking at what they can do with the drains but that is not going to happen any time soon,’ she said, adding that the possibility of rebuilding the worst-affected homes – those in Nicholson Close – and moving them to a different part of the estate was also discussed.
‘That’s a massive piece of work. They are looking so far into the future that they are not focusing on immediate measures,’ she said. ‘They don’t have a strategy for right now and they are working on flood plans, but I asked them what the process is if we flood again in the next few weeks and there’s nothing.
‘Hopefully they took away our thoughts and concerns. I think they have realised that they need to process this flood plan immediately because, until last night, they didn’t realise how unhappy we still are.’
However, she said she ‘couldn’t fault Andium Homes’ who had been ‘fantastic’, adding that she had recently been able to meet chief executive Ian Gallichan to share her concerns.
Remodelling water management in the Grands Vaux catchment, options for additional flood protection defences and an improved warning process for when heavy rainfall is predicted were among the topics discussed at Thursday’s meeting.
Deputy Binet said: ‘It became, understandably, emotional at times but I think it was a productive meeting and that there is a reasonable understanding of the issues on which we are seeking further details.’
He added: ‘Talks are going on between IHE and Jersey Water and there is extensive modelling work taking place to see whether the reservoir could, in part, be used as a flood management tool by keeping it at a lower level in certain months.’
Helier Smith, the chief executive for Jersey Water, confirmed that the reservoir’s potential role in a flood resilience strategy was discussed at the meeting but that ‘the engineering and operational challenges that would present’ were also highlighted.
Zoë Hibbs, head of communications and media for Andium Homes, said: ‘Work to dry out and repair the affected properties is progressing well.
‘The first household will be returning to its property next week, and we expect to be able to start giving a more definite return date for others within the next week or so.
‘We are doing all we can to help other residents return to their homes as quickly as possible, ensuring the properties are thoroughly dried out before installing new kitchens and flooring.
‘We are continuing to work closely with the Government of Jersey and Jersey Water to look at short-, medium- and long-term flood plans and other measures which improve flood resilience for our properties and residents.’