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 Building with Nature Guideline > Projects > Wetland Restoration - Wallasea, GB

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Wetland Restoration - Wallasea, GB


Location: Wallasea, UK
Date: 1997 – 2005, and 2006 - 2011
Involved parties : Defra, Environment Agency ComCoast, RSPB, ABP Mer, Westminster Dredging bv

  Technology Readiness Level: 6 (Prototype system tested in intended environmental close to expected performance)

Environment: Delta lakes

Keywords: habitat creation, port development, compensation measures, additional environmental value, ecology

Building with Nature designTraditional design

An EDD approach to wetland restoration implies that both location and design are highly influenced by environmental factors, but also include an integral approach. In case of Wallasea the location is carefully chosen to have the largest additional environmental value without destroying any of the existing environment. The wetlands are not only aimed to compensate for nature losses, but also to (indirectly) provide flood protection and to serve recreational purposes.  

A traditional approach to compensating measures such as wetland restoration would spend as little effort as possible to just meet the requirements. Most probably, the process would be dictated by the authorities.
In terms of flood protection a traditional design would be that the existing dikes would further be raised to cope with progressing sea level rise. Increasing river discharges would further enhance the design water levels in the estuary, thus necessitating further dike raising.  



On Wallasea Island, large wetlands are reconstructed that simultaneously form a nature area; a flood storage facility and a recreational area.

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Inception phase

After port construction at Lappel Bank in the Medway Estuary and at Fagbury Flats in the Orwell Estuary, 86 hectares of wetland were lost. In 1997 the British government ordered for these losses to be compensated. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) was in charge of this process.

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Construction phase

During the construction phase dredged material from the port of Harwich was deposited behind the old sea dike to create salt marshes. Furthermore the dredged material was used to build a new, higher sea dike inland from the old one. The salt marshes and the new sea dike form an integrated flood protection system. Afterwards, the old dikes were breached to allow water at high tide to inundate the land and to let mudflats and salt marshes evolve naturally.

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Operation and Maintenance

In the first year after completion, the ownership of the land was handed over by Defra to local authorities and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). In the wetlands first signs of results were found, such as bird, wildlife and wetland vegetation. The expectations are that the wetlands need at least 5 years to mature and to get all the expected flora and fauna. During these 5 years the wetlands will be monitored closely and the interesting lessons learned will be shared with the public.

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Lessons Learned

The project at Wallasea is considered successful; the parties involved have indicated a number of success factors of the project and its process, factors that can each be considered a lesson learned.

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