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ASEA Ecology Mitigation and Flood Defence Project shortlisted for a prestigious civil engineering award

ASEA Ecology Mitigation and Flood Defence Project shortlisted for a prestigious civil engineering award

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) South West Civil Engineering Awards 2024 recognise outstanding civil engineering achievement, innovation and ingenuity in the region. The ASEA Ecology Mitigation and Flood Defence Project was selected as one of 12 project finalists from a highly competitive field of entries.

The project which began in 2020, with the construction lasting around five years, aims to provide 17 km of flood defences to reduce flood risk to 2,500 homes and businesses. Additionally, it is expected to create 80 hectares of new wetland habitat and improve walking routes around the Severn Estuary, while also helping to unlock 12,000 new jobs for the West of England.

Following a second round of judging, including a site visit by a panel of industry leaders, the award winners will be announced at a gala ceremony in Bristol on Thursday 24 October 2024, hosted by Rob Bell, TV presenter and engineer.

We are thrilled that the ASEA Ecology Mitigation and Flood Defence Project has been shortlisted.
This recognition from ICE South West highlights the dedication and innovative efforts of our team in addressing the dual challenges of environmental protection and flood defences, ensuring a resilient future for the region."

BMMjv are delighted that this project of local, regional and national importance, which protects homes and businesses whilst boosting the economy and improving local nature and restoring wetland habitats, has been recognised. Through collaboration, the project team have delivered technical excellence whilst working alongside the community, making a sustainable future possible.”

The public can also get involved by voting for the project they would like to see win the South West People’s Choice Award

Miranda Housden, Regional Director, ICE South West said: “The ICE South West People’s Choice Award is a fantastic way to showcase civil engineering to the public and recognise the civil engineers who work to improve our communities. I encourage everyone to learn about the impressive projects on the shortlist and vote for the one they believe has made the most significant positive impact on the local area or the region as a whole.”  

The deadline for voting is 5pm on Friday 30 August 2024. 

A new flood defence wall at New Passage
New Wetlands
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South West Association of Drainage Authorities visit Severnside

South West Association of Drainage Authorities visit Severnside

On 8 May, members of the South West Association of Drainage Authorities (SWADA) were guided around the Severnside area of the project including Aust, Pilning and Severn Beach.

ADA is the membership organisation for drainage, water level and flood risk management authorities throughout the UK representing over 230 members nationally, including internal drainage boards, regional flood and coastal committees, local authorities, and national agencies, as well Associate Members who are contractors, consultants, and suppliers to the industry. The Lower Severn Internal Drainage Board hosted this South West ADA Branch Board meeting and took the opportunity to organise a tour of our new flood defences and wetlands.

Cllr Matthew Riddle, Vice-Chairman of SWADA, reflected after the tour:.

The ASEA project demonstrates the importance of strong partnership working to maximise opportunities to reduce flood risk and deliver multi-functional assets to enhance the landscape for communities around the ASEA"

For more information, head to the South West Association of Drainage Authorities website and the Lower Severn Internal Drainage Board website.

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Council Cabinet Members Visit ASEA Flood Defence Project

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Members of South Gloucestershire Council’s new cabinet visited the ASEA Ecology Mitigation and Flood Defence Project in September to learn about the project and see its significant progress for themselves. Once complete, the project will deliver 17km of flood defences from Aust in South Gloucestershire to Shirehampton in Bristol.

The five councillors from the new Liberal Democrat-Labour coalition enjoyed a minibus tour of key project sites in South Gloucestershire between Severn Beach and Aust.

Council Leader Cllr Claire Young, Co-Leader Cllr Ian Boulton, Co-Members for Climate and Nature Emergency, Cllr Louise Harris and Cllr Alex Doyle, and Cabinet Member for Planning, Regeneration, and Infrastructure, Cllr Chris Willmore were led on the tour by Tony Bajjada from BMMJV, the joint venture between engineering contractors BAM Nuttall and Mott Macdonald, and the project’s client representative, Ursula Stevenson.

Councillors looking at the new hybrid glass flood defence panel at New Passage
The councillors at the start of their tour at Severn Beach

The councillors started their tour at the precast flood defence wall at Severn Beach. They then saw the new hybrid glass flood defence panel at New Passage, outfall structures at Cake Pill Outfall, raised embankments at Passage Road, and new wetlands created at Northwick. 

With an opportunity to ask questions about all aspects of the scheme, the councillors learned more about this key infrastructure project and its benefits for the West of England economy.

Council Leader, Cllr Claire Young, said: “This project is vital for protecting our coastal communities and unlocking economic growth for the region. As well as learning how flood risk in South Gloucestershire is being reduced, it was great to see the upgraded walking routes and new wetlands which are being created in the area. We were grateful to get the chance to see the scheme up close and look forward to its completion in the coming years.”

Ursula Stevenson said: “We’ve made great progress on the project in the past few years, so we really valued the chance to show the new South Gloucestershire Council cabinet members our work. The flood defences and ecological mitigations we’re  putting in place will benefit local businesses, residents, and wildlife for years to come, so it’s important that local decision-makers see first-hand what a difference we’re making. The day was a great success, and the project team would like to thank the councillors for joining the tour.”

Councillors viewing the outfall structures at Cake Pill
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Endangered eels continue their journey thanks to ASEA project

Endangered eels continue their journey thanks to ASEA project

Eel migration is going swimmingly in local water outfalls thanks to steps taken by the Avonmouth Severnside Enterprise Area (ASEA) Ecology Mitigation and Flood Defence Project team to support them.

Over the past few months, the team has been busy upgrading eel spring retarders at tidal gates at outfalls across the 17km project, including Cake Pill, Chestle Pill and New Pill tidal outfalls in South Gloucestershire. The retarders are a spring or tension device used to hold the tidal gate open and slow the closure of the gate on the incoming tide. This means that eels can pass through more easily over a longer period.

European eels once thrived in the UK, but the population has dropped dramatically since the 1980s, declining by 95 per cent. The species is now classified as critically endangered. One of the reasons for this is that eels’ migratory pathways are frequently blocked. Removing barriers and installing eel spring retarders and eel passes in places where migration has been disrupted helps to conserve this species. It is a legal requirement to maintain eel passes to a functional standard under the Eel Regulations 2009.

Tidal gates are an example of structures that prevent eels from moving into a watercourse. Eel spring retarders solve this problem by holding tidal gates open for longer at the point at which the water level on either side is equalised. Eels can then migrate upstream where the gate would otherwise be closed. Spring retarders are easy to install, require minimal maintenance, and are a low cost, flexible way to improve eel and fish passages at tidal gates.

The refurbished spring retarders are the latest in the project’s work to conserve endangered species. This spring, the project team released water voles onto a new home at one of the project’s new wetlands at Hallen Marsh near Bristol. Water voles are also amongst the most endangered species in the UK. The wetland, at Hallen, is part of over 80 hectares of new wetland habitats created by the project.

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ASEA project shortlisted for Ground Engineering Award

ASEA project shortlisted for Ground Engineering Award

We are very excited to be shortlisted for this year’s Ground Engineering Awards in the UK Project with a Geotechnical Value over £3M category.

This category is for a ground engineering scheme with a contract value of over £3M that stands out in terms of its credentials in innovation, sustainability, health and safety and value engineering.

The winners will be announced at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel in London on 12 July 2023. Wish us luck!

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Water voles settle into new home at one of UK’s newest wildlife wetlands

Water voles settle into new home at one of UK’s newest wildlife wetlands

Water voles are busily burrowing into a new home at one of the UK’s newest wetlands near Bristol after they were released onto the site. With its ditches and vegetation, the wetlands are the perfect habitat for these brown furry mammals which are amongst the most endangered species in the U.K. Watch our video of the water voles arriving at their new home above.

The wetland, at Hallen, is part of over 80 hectares of new wetland habitats created by the Avonmouth Severnside Enterprise Area Ecology Mitigation and Flood Defence Project (ASEA). 

Nationally, coastal wetland habitat is one of the most valuable natural habitats, but it is under threat from rising sea levels because of climate change. The Severn Estuary is home to internationally important bird species and the new wetland habitat will help all manner of wildlife to thrive. The project is also planting hundreds of native trees to improve the environment for years to come. Water voles are environmental engineers, creating habitat for the burrows, and are a crucial part of ecosystems. 

Before the water voles’ move to their new home, the team checked that the area was free of American mink, (an invasive species) as the water vole population has been severely affected by this species in the U.K. The team also checked the ditches for existing water voles to avoid any competition between the newcomers and resident animals.  Once it was safe to move in, the voles were put in pens with plenty of straw and food so they could get used to their surroundings on the first day. On day two, the team put out a baffle on the front of the pen so the voles could go in and out. 

All the voles have successfully been released. The team is allowing the animals to settle in before carrying out follow-up surveys.

The ASEA project is a partnership between South Gloucestershire Council, Bristol City Council and the Environment Agency.  A joint venture between BAM Nuttall and Mott Macdonald (BMMJV) was appointed to undertake the detailed design and construction of the Avonmouth flood defences and wetland area.

Councillor Kye Dudd, Bristol City Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, Waste and Energy, said: “Over the last 40 years the water vole population has dropped by 90 per cent and they face possible extinction so we are very pleased to be able to provide a new home for these water voles. We’re committed to enhancing our natural environment and providing a huge boost to nature and wildlife projects such as this – working across the organisation as part of our Ecological Emergency Action Plan.”

Councillor Louise Harris, South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate and Nature Emergency, said: “We want to protect and boost nature through our climate and nature emergency work and, as part of this ecology mitigation and flood defence project, we are ensuring that a thriving environment will be established for people and wildlife. We’re optimistic that the water voles will colonise the new wetlands habitat and we’re proud to be helping this endangered species. With a network of ditches on site, the wetlands have real potential to become a stronghold for them.”

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New tide valves installed at Kings Weston Outfall 

New tide valves installed at Kings Weston Outfall 

We have made improvements to the Kings Weston Outfall in Bristol to stop tidal water entering the local drainage system. The team has replaced old flap valves with new tide valves, with a 100-tonne crane lifting the new valves into position. The work is part of improvements to several outfalls throughout the ASEA project area.

The new tidal flap valves are a combination of stainless steel and high-density polyethylene.

Tide valves ensure water can pass through valves in one direction only. Water flows through a pipe or culvert and pushes the swinging door open. When the water level on the downstream side of the flap valve is higher than in the pipe or culvert, it presses the swinging door shut and prevents the water traveling back through the system.

The existing concrete structure at Kings Weston Outfall was in a poor condition so the design for the new flap valves includes a large spreader plate to transfer load throughout the structure rather than point load the face.

The team has also repaired the existing stonework face to ensure a secure fit and is installing new winch systems that will allow the flap valves to be safely lifted for access for future maintenance and inspection.

As well as this work, it is refurbishing the existing steps down to the spillway and constructing a new concrete access ramp and stairs that will give access to the foreshore for plant to carry out maintenance works and clear silt for the spillway. The new works will be protected by approximately 1800 tonnes of new rock armour that is now in place.

Mitchells Salt, Holes Mouth, Stupp Pill, Cake Pill, Chestle Pill, Cotteralls Pill and New Pill outfall structures are also being improved. The team is raising the height of outfalls there in-line with new flood defences. In many cases, it is also widening the outfalls to support the extra load to support this increased height.

Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Strategic Planning, Resilience and Floods, Bristol City Council, said: “I’m incredibly pleased with the progress being made on this ambitious project where we are getting on with making improvements to our flood defences. The new tide valves will help to stop tidal water entering the local drainage system, protecting the local community and wildlife from flooding in the future.

“Flooding represents one of the major threats to the region and as a maritime city, we are particularly at risk from the effects of flood events. As a council, we’re investing over £40 million in our flood defences and our administration has worked with partners across sectors to source investment and undertake the action necessary to protect the city, unlock new opportunities for housebuilding and commercial operations.”

Ursula Stevenson, Client Lead for the project, said: “Outfall improvements are a very important part of the project. Efficient flap valves make a big difference to keeping local drainage systems safe rather than underwhelmed.”

Delivered in a unique partnership between South Gloucestershire and Bristol City Councils with the Environment Agency, the ASEA project is protecting communities and wildlife against anticipated rising sea levels and will unlock economic growth. When complete in 2026, it will provide 17km of flood defences from Aust in South Gloucestershire to Shirehampton in Bristol. These will reduce flood risk to 2,500 homes and businesses and help unlock 1,200 new jobs. The project will also create a minimum of 80ha of new wetlands habitat. 

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Innovation News

New flood gates and glass panel defences commissioned at New Passage

Commissioning of flood gates and glass panels at New Passage

We have taken another leap forward this month with the commissioning of the flood gate and glass panel defences at New Passage, South Gloucestershire. This is a vital process towards ensuring that the new defences will help protect communities from the threat of flooding and rising sea levels. 

Weighing over a tonne, the flood gates used on the project are a substantial part of the flood defence network. Unlike those found elsewhere, these gates can be mechanically and manually operated. This makes it much easier to open and close them for Environment Agency staff in a range of circumstances. The flood gate at New Passage is one of several being installed throughout the 17km project area, with others at Lamplighter’s Marsh and in Aust.  

To perform the test, two tonnes of water was pumped behind the gate with site staff observing carefully for any leakages. If any were spotted, the seals on the gate were adjusted and the test resumed. The same process was repeated on a section of the glass panel flood defences at New Passage. You can watch a short video of the test taking place to gain an idea of how the flood gate and glass panels withstand the levels of water that are possible in decades to come. 

Colin Taylor, Senior Flood & Coastal Risk Management Advisor at the Environment Agency, said: “We have installed a flood gate to allow access to the seaward side of the new raised flood defences at New Passage. The testing of the flood defences that have been installed this year is a crucial point for the project. We are now seeing how they stand up to the kind of real-world conditions that may occur if sea levels continue to rise in the decades ahead.” 

Cllr Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Climate Change, said: “Seeing the flood gate and glass panel defences in action is a clear visual reminder of how far the ASEA project is has come. The rigorous testing happening now is incredibly important to give confidence to New Passage residents that the flood defences here will help provide protection from the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.” 

Cllr Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Strategic Planning, Resilience and Floods, Bristol City Council, said: “I’m incredibly pleased with the progress being made on this ambitious project where we are now getting on with testing the flood defences that have been installed. The glass panel flood defences are one of several innovative solutions that will better protect residents and businesses from flooding in the future. They will also preserve views of the Severn Estuary which provides a home for internationally significant species of bird, such as curlew and shelduck.” 

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Birdlife thrives this winter 

Birdlife thrives this winter

We’ve spotted some wonderful birds on the project sites this winter, including Dunlins, Gadwall, Turnstones and Wigeon. We’re counting birds two hours either side of high tide in areas where we are working along the Severn Estuary and River Avon. This lets us know how many birds and what species are present. It also gives us the perfect opportunity to observe which birds are over-wintering with us.  

As well as vital new flood defences, the project is creating a minimum of 80 hectares (the equivalent of 112 football pitches) of new wetland habitat for all manner of wildlife to thrive, while the planting of hundreds of native trees will improve the environment for years to come. 

Last month, ornithologists gathered data on the birds that are visiting areas throughout the Severn Estuary. At New Passage, the survey recorded over 10,000 Dunlins, a small wader bird that winters in estuaries throughout the UK, and which has never been recorded here in such numbers before. At Holes Mouth outfall in Avonmouth, where we constructed the new rock armour flood defence last summer, we spotted 30 Gadwall. This is an unusually high number for this species. 

Cllr Nicola Beech, Bristol City Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Strategic Planning, Resilience & Floods, said: “The species recorded here on the Severn Estuary are a clear reminder of the important work we are doing to preserve and enhance our natural environment. This is incredibly welcome news. We’re very much looking forward to so many of these internationally important species making their homes on our new wetlands in years to come.” 

Above: A Dunlin, 10,000 of which are overwintering at New Passage
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ASEA young star wins top industry award

ASEA young star wins top industry award

Young engineering star Sophie Rice has won the Outstanding Contribution to the Industry award at the New Civil Engineer (NCE) Graduate and Apprentice Awards 2022. Sophie has worked as an apprentice on the Avonmouth Severnside Enterprise Area Ecology Mitigation and Flood Defence project.

Sophie, who is an apprentice with ASEA project contractor BAM Nuttall, part of the BMMjv with Mott MacDonald, is studying at the Leeds College of Building to get her Level 4 HNC in construction as a civil engineer. She has also been working on the ASEA project site with the team throughout the past year as part of the Bam Nuttall apprenticeship programme.

The NCE awards highlight the best rising talent in civil engineering. Sophie won largely because of her drive to address gender imbalance in the industry. As a STEM ambassador at BMMjv, Sophie has worked hard to get out of the office and deliver talks to young people, especially girls, encouraging them to consider careers in the industry.

Sophie, who has now returned to college for her final term, said: “The percentage of female students in STEM subjects is low, and you’re not going to get more women in the industry if there aren’t the students. Although employment needs to be targeted, it needs to be approached from the studying level.”

Ray Jones, ASEA Construction Contracts Manager for BMMjv said: “It’s great to see young stars like Sophie get recognition for their brilliant work in the industry. We have really enjoyed having Sophie on site this past year, and her contribution to the project has been fantastic. This win for her is well deserved, and we wish Sophie all the best for her future career”.

 You can watch Sophie talk about her exciting work here.

Sophie at the Institute of Civil Engineers in London