The project to protect Mersea Harbour from erosion was completed on 16th January 2022 when the last load of sand and gravel dredged from the approaches to Harwich Harbour was delivered and pumped onto Old Hall Point.
The Harbour has been under severe threat from the rise in sea levels and storm wave action. It is protected by islands that have been washing away for many years due, increasingly so in recent years. The Save Mersea Harbour project, led by the Mersea Harbour Protection Trust, a group of local volunteers, began back in 2014. After 4 years of effort to meet stringent marine, environmental, ecological and legal requirements they received approvals to place 98,000 m3 of dredged sand and gravel from Harwich Harbour to ‘recharge’ locations on Cobmarsh, Packing Marsh and Old Hall Point in Mersea Quarters as well as at Shinglehead Point at Tollesbury Wick.
The recharged materials will reinforce the islands to slow down the erosion ensuring the harbour can remain active and usable for many years to come. It will ensure that important wildlife sites and oyster beds are protected and waterfront properties and businesses will no longer come under threat from increasing storm wave action. Brushwood fencing has been installed at two locations to ensure no material can move into any navigable channels.
The work was carried out on behalf of Harwich Harbour Authority by a joint venture between leading international marine contractors Boskalis Westminster and Van Oord. They employed specialist dredgers ‘Sospan Dau’ and ‘Scald’ to make a total of 95 round trips from Harwich to deliver 98.944 cu m (158,310 tonnes) of material. Brushwood fencing was installed by Exo Environmental Ltd
Harwich Haven Authority, one of the UK’s largest trust ports, funded much of the recharge project, in excess of £1.2M. The Environment Agency contributed almost £300k towards the recharge costs as well as funding essential pre and post recharge monitoring, aspects of which are also being carried out by RSPB at no cost to the Trust.
In order to prepare the application for the necessary consents to carry out the Recharge, Mersea Harbour Protection Trust raised over £70,000 locally from donations and grants from Essex County Council, Essex Community Foundation, Colchester Borough Council, West Mersea Town Council, Mersea Island Society, Mersea Moorings Association and other local organisations and individuals.
The Trust is grateful to its stakeholder members and all the above organisations for their efforts, contributions and support.
It is hoped that the project will ensure that people are able to enjoy the wildlife, the beautiful creeks and all the activities that are based around them for the foreseeable future.