Dredging the River Thames above Oxford

The request was partially successful.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please may I know when the River Thames was last dredged between Osney Bridge in Oxford and Godstow Lock to the north west.

If there has been a change of policy which has resulted in there being a policy of no dredging of this stretch of river for the past few years (the "no dredging policy") please inform me whether you have in your possession or control scientific information on which that policy decision was taken. Please identify all that scientific information.

If such a policy decision was taken, please identify the policy for dredging that preceded it (the "last dredging policy"), and provide me with the terms of that policy.

Also, if such a dredging policy existed, please inform me whether you have in your possession or control scientific information on which the depths of dedging specified in the last dredging policy were determined. Please indentify all that scientific information.

Yours faithfully,

Ian Salisbury

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

Thank you for contacting the Environment Agency. Please see below
regarding our response times and environmental incident reporting

You can expect to receive a reply from us within 10 working days for any
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But my e-mail refers to an Environmental Incident, won't it get answered
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Ian Salisbury left an annotation ()

Researching whether a change in the dredging of the River Thames led to the summer flooding of 2007

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

Dear Ian

Thank you for your enquiry regarding dredging the River Thames between
Osney Bridge and Godstow Lock. For your information, your query has been
passed to our local External Relations Team (Planning and Corporate
Services) for attention and they will be in touch with you shortly.

Should you wish to contact them in the meantime, their details are
below. Please quote your Enquiry Ref 090421/jc05 in your correspondence
with us.

External Relations
Planning and Corporate Services
Environment Agency
Thames Region, West Area
Redkite House
Howbery Park
WALLINGFORD
OX10 8BD
Tel: 08708 506506

Regards

Joanne Carney
Customer Service Advisor
National Customer Contact Centre
Environment Agency

Tel: 08708 506 506

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Thames West, Customer Contact, Environment Agency

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Salisbury

Our Ref Wir 30503

Thankyou for your e-mail in respect of dredging between Osney Bridge and
Godstow Lock.

We last dredged the River Thames approximately 200 metres upstream of
Botley Road Bridge, where the Bulstake Stream converges with Castle Mill
Stream, about 4 years ago.

We justify dredging the River Thames for safe passage of rivercraft, also
taking into account conservation and available resources. The depth
varies as you travel downstream, please see page 9 of the attached
publication.

Our policy on dredging has not changed in recent times.

I trust this clarifies the situation, but please let us know if you
require further information.

Kind Regards

Jean Fulker

External Relations Officer

Direct Dial 01491 828307

Environment Agency

External Relations

West Area

Red Kite House

Howbery Park

Wallingford

OX10 8BD.

show quoted sections

Ian Salisbury

Dear Jean Fulker,

Thank you for responding to my request with the information that I sought.

You have referred to a "policy" in your letter of 15 May. May I please see a copy of that policy?

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Thames West, Customer Contact, Environment Agency

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Salisbury

Our Ref Wir 30503

Thank you for your e-mail.

It may have been misleading for me to use the word policy in my previous
e-mail dated 15 May.

We do not have an explicit policy on dredging, more a risk based approach
within guidelines.

Please find link to our website where these guidelines can be accessed.

http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/hom...

Kind Regards

Jean Fulker

External Relations Officer

Direct Dial 01491 828307

Environment Agency

External Relations

West Area

Red Kite House

Howbery Park

Wallingford

OX10 8BD.

show quoted sections

Ian Salisbury

Dear Jean Fulker,

Thank you for your email. It may help you to provide the information that I am after if I give the background to my request. Last summer there was a complaint from a boatman about sand bars in the river between Folly Bridge and Wolvercote Bridge. The complaint was made to a lock keeper who replied that this was caused by a change in policy about 10 years ago when "self-dredging" in the interests of wildlife habitat was introduced. That change accorded with my own recollection, for when I was an active river user in the early 1970s, I can well remember seeing a dredger working regularly in this area. I have not seen such a dredger at work on this stretch of river in the last 10 years, even though I live nearby.

During the summer floods of late July 2007, a great deal of criticism was levelled at the inadequacy of flood defences, but I believed at the time, and still believe, that the overriding cause was that the mean level of the river had been allowed to rise because it was no longer being routinely mechanically dredged, something which had been done consistently, I understand, since Victorian times. Evidence for this is shown in the level of the water table of port meadow, which has been rising steadily over the last 10 years(as shown by the temporary lake that forms between the Medley Boat Station and the Trap Ground Allotment Gardens). During the 1970s when I remember the river being dredged, this temporary lake was a winter phenomenon. By June it was gone and the re-growth of the grassland was complete across the whole area. But the ground has now been inundated for so long that during a mild drought such as has recently occurred there is no viable seed left on this land and what is left is a quagmire. During most summers in the 1960s and 1970s, even the ditch alongside the tip (now Burgess Field) used to dry out, showing that the recent rise in the water table (but excluding the exceptional weather of the last two summers) amounts to at least 200mm.

I don't think that even the most basic appreciation of hydrology is needed to understand that such a rise in the mean river level would be significant to low-lying areas such as Botley, and it is therefore not surprising that with a rise of any amount above this higher level, a flood will be the nearer prospect. Of course, clearing drains, conduits and ditches so that flood water drains critical areas effectively is important in removing flood water once it has arrived, but it can have no impact at all on drainage if the flow of water in those streams is reversed by a flooding surge in the river level.

In the light of these observations, I would like you to reconsider the replies you have sent me which have referred only to information that is publicly available and with which I am familiar. You clearly do have a policy on dredging, even if it is not framed as a policy document, and I would like to know please precisely what that policy is. I would also like to know what has been the cause in the change in the practice of mechanical river dredging upstream from Oxford to one of "self-dredging" with the occasional foray to deal with exceptional shallows such as the event that you mentioned in your first letter. Tell me please what has happened to the dredger that I used to see. Where is the dredger kept that is in current use, and how often is it put to use? Tell me please whether you now have the capacity in your equipment and human resources to carry out routine dredging even if was deemed to be required. And tell me please the reason why routine dredging was abandoned, providing me with the information, be it financial or environmental or both, that gave rise to that decision. Finally please tell me when that decision was taken.

Please consider this email as a continuation of my inquiry under the Freedom of Information Act. In addition to the information above I would like to have the following factual information: a copy of your records of the river level for the stretch of water that I am inquiring about for the last 50 years, attaching to that information any significant event such as changes to sluices, exceptional weather and changes to the dredging practice etc that may indicate a reason for any change in the long-term mean level of the river. This last request is a tall order, and I shall be happy to discuss with you, in this forum, how that information can be efficiently produced to show trends allied to possible causes.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Thames West, Customer Contact, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury

Wir 30503

Thank you for your recent e-mail.

In discussions regarding your enquiry, we believe it prudent for you to
speak with our West Area Flood Risk Manager. Please can you supply a
daytime telephone number so he may contact you directly to discuss this
matter further.

Kind Regards

Jean Fulker

External Relations Officer

Direct Dial 01491 828307

Environment Agency

External Relations

West Area

Red Kite House

Howbery Park

Wallingford

OX10 8BD.

show quoted sections

Ian Salisbury

Dear Jean Fulker,

Wir 30503

I am grateful to you for inquiring into my request during our telephone conversation today.

1. I am not interested in raw data but in collated information of the kind that would be presented to and used by your officers who are in charge of river level management. To be meaningful, I have no doubt that information will include both seasonal or periodic mean river levels and all occasional surge levels. You have told me that you collate such information into monthly and yearly figures, and I think that these will be appropriate in the first instance.

2. I am surprised that your information for the period further back than about 10 years has not been collated, and that you would necessarily have to provide me with copies of lock-keepers' ledgers. I would be grateful if you would check whether this is so.

3. I confirm that my interest in this matter is not for navigational purposes. I am interested to know whether changes in the management of the river, and in particular the change in the practice of dredging the river, contributed to the flooding that occurred in 2007.

4. I also confirm that I wish to continue correspondence within this public forum, although of course I have no objection to your manager calling me for clarification.

5. I am not averse to paying a charge for the information you provide, providing I am informed of its cost in anticipation of a demand arising. But as it seems you may have contemplated raising a charge for copying all the raw data from lock-keepers' ledgers over the past 50 years, and as you now know that for the present it is collated management information that I am after rather than raw data, this may not, perhaps, be an issue.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Thames West, Customer Contact, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury,

Our Ref Wir 30503

I have tried to make contact with you on a few occasions - 28/5 & 1/6 -
without success. Your phone appears to divert after 4 rings, but I am
unable to leave a message.

Please could you call my secretary, Janet Hickman, and let her know when
would be a good time to call you to discuss your FoI request.

She can be contacted on 01491 828363.

Many Thanks

Barry Russell

Area Flood Risk Manager

West Area - Thames

Tel: 01491 828364

[mobile number]

Email: [email address]

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Russell, Barry, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury,

I again tried to make contact with you this morning on two separate
occasions to discuss your FoI request. I trust that the number I have
been given (01865 250777) is correct, but it appears to divert after
several rings to another line, but this one also just rings with no
answerphone and then self disconnects.

I wanted to offer you the opportunity to come into our offices in
Wallingford to discuss your request with my team in detail. Rather than
pursuing a series of emails, I feel that a discussion around the issue
will be more fruitful with the technical experts that will be able to
answer your questions.

If you would like to visit our offices, please could you telephone my
secretary, Janet Hickman, on 01491 828363.

Kind Regards,

Barry Russell
Area Flood Risk Manager
West Area, Thames Region

* Red Kite House, Howbery Park, Wallingford, Oxon OX10 8BD
(Internal 7 25 8364
(External 01491 828364
([mobile number] [1][email address]

P please consider the environment - do you really need to print this
email

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Ian Salisbury

Dear Mr Russell,

Thank you for your email. I think that the nature and substance of my inquiry is clear, and I would like it to be dealt with in this public forum.

My office is open from 9.00am until 5.30pm.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Thames West, Customer Contact, Environment Agency

3 Attachments

Dear Mr Salisbury

Our Ref Wir 30503

Thank you for your further enquiry of 22 May 2009 and your subsequent
email dated 28 May, regarding your request for information in relation to
dredging practices.

We think it may be helpful to make you aware of the changes in
responsibility for the River Thames.

The Environment Agency was formed in 1996. Prior to this the
responsibility for dredging was with the National Rivers Authority (1989 -
1996) and before this the responsibility was with the Regional Thames
Water Authority (1974-1989).

The last widespread dredging of the Thames was carried out in the mid
1980s. Although records are not precise it is understood that two or three
dredgers were used.

Under the Thames Conservancy Act 1932 the Environment Agency are empowered
to `dredge cleanse and scour the Thames for the purpose of maintaining
and improving and freeing or keeping free from obstruction the
navigation'. Dredging in the River Thames is primarily carried out for
navigation reasons.

Since 1996 dredging of the Upper Thames has focused on the removal of
specific critical shoals which constitute a hazard to navigation. The
shoal locations are identified by survey work, reports from lock keepers
and boaters. Any hazards to navigation are prioritised according to the
risks posed. The prioritised shoal locations are de-silted rather than
dredged, although the term dredging is still used as it is more widely
understood. De-silting is a similar activity to dredging but only
involves the removal of relatively soft accumulations of silts and
sediments from the waterways.

Changes to Waste Regulations have lead to previous practices being
uneconomical or not feasible. Previous agreements with some landowners for
disposal of dredging are less attractive when in competition with
conservation scheme financial incentives.

The section of river between Osney bridge and Wolvercote bridge, as
mentioned in your e-mail, is a relatively wide section of the river where
boats can pass each other easily; hence very few navigational problems
have been reported to the Environment Agency.

In response to your specific questions raised in your email of 22^nd May
2009:

1. What is the policy on dredging?

As explained in our earlier e-mail dated 15 May 2009, there is no national
dredging policy. There is guidance on dredging and on channel maintenance
which we provide for our in-house staff and riparian owners. This
guidance is published on our website and the link has already been
supplied to you.

2. What is the cause of the change in practice of mechanical
dredging upstream from Oxford?

The dredging or de-silting of the River Thames is now carried out for
navigation purposes on a risk based approach. Critical navigation areas
are identified and prioritised. Consultation with our internal
departments, including Operations, Fisheries and Conservation is carried
out to decide the best course of action to deal with these critical areas.

3. What happened to the dredger seen regularly on the river above
Osney?

There are 2 dredgers available for working on the river between Lechlade
and Hurley. One is used for works on the Upper Thames and the other for
works on the Middle Thames, from Oxford downstream.

4. Where is the dredger kept that is in use and how often is it in
use? The dredger is not just used for dredging. It is also used for other
maintenance work on the River Thames, and therefore does not have a single
storage location.

5. Is there the capacity in equipment and human resources to carry
out routine dredging even if it was deemed to be required?

Should we be in a position where we need additional resource to undertake
our maintenance activities, we are able to use external contractors.

6. Why was routine dredging abandoned?

Due to changes in waste management legislation, the ability to dispose of
dredged material has become more constrained over recent years. Although
this is a factor that we consider when undertaking dredging operations, it
does not prevent us from carrying out essential works where these are
necessary. In making these decisions, we consider the environmental,
operational, financial and sustainability issues before undertaking any
works.

7. When was the decision made about abandoning routine dredging?

Since the inception of the Environment Agency in 1996, the Upper Thames
has been routinely dredged for navigational purposes only - this is done
on a reactive basis.

The Lock Keepers' records of sluice movements (lowering and raising sluice
gates) are held centrally in our Reading Office. If you would like to see
these records, please let us know the lock sites and the time period
required.

We have attached an excel spreadsheet showing the peak levels for the
River Thames at Osney and Godstow Locks since our records began. More
detailed explanation of this data is contained within the spreadsheet.

We have also attached a spreadsheet showing the peak tail water levels for
the weirs through Oxford for all the flood events above `typical low flood
levels'. These levels are collated from data collected by the Lock
Keepers and show the peak levels recorded in each of these events plotted
against time, over the period for which we have records. Tail levels are
used as they are less affected by the operation of, and changes to, the
weirs. Please note that excel cannot cope with dates prior to 1900 which
is why some of the columns are filled with hash symbols.

We trust this provides you with the information you are seeking in
relation to your request.

Please may we draw your attention to our attached standard notice, non
commercial, for the permitted use of our data.

Yours sincerely

External Relations Team

Environment Agency

West Area

Red Kite House

Howbery Park

Wallingford

OX10 8BD.

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Dear External Relations Team,

Thank you for your informative email of 15 June 2009.

Whereas the information you have provided is interesting, it does not provide all of the information requested.

1. Although you say that since 1996 the dredging has been carried out on a reactive basis for navigational purposes only, you have not told me when the decision was made made about abandoning routine dredging. If this was also in 1996, please confirm it. If it was another date, please identify that date.

2. The tabled data you have sent provides evidence of occasions only when the water level in the river was above "typical low flood level". It is not possible to determine from this data whether the change in dredging policy that you have now identified has resulted in any change in the mean water level. You have kindly informed me that you collate seasonal or periodic mean river levels into monthly and yearly figures, and I was expecting this to be provided as well as comprehensive (rather than exceptional) data for surge levels. Please provide me with this information. (I am not interested in data from sources other than Osney Lock (head water), Osney Lock (tail water) and Godstow Lock (tail water)).

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Environment Agency's handling of my FOI request 'Dredging the River Thames above Oxford'.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/dr...

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

Thank you for contacting the Environment Agency. Please see below
regarding our response times and environmental incident reporting

You can expect to receive a reply from us within 10 working days for any
general enquiry. Please note that bank holiday days and weekends are not
classed as a working day.

If your enquiry refers to a Simple Exemptions application you can expect
to receive a response within 25 working days.

The Customer Charter (response days) for all enquiries start from the next
working day of you receiving this auto reply from us. For example an
e-mail's customer charter sent to us on a Friday will start on the
following Monday providing this isn't a bank holiday.

For further information on our Customer Charter please see

[1]http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/abo...

But my e-mail refers to an Environmental Incident, won't it get answered
sooner?

If you wish to report an incident i.e. pollution, fish in distress,
dumping of hazardous waste, etc please do not use this e-mail service
instead please call our free-phone 24 hour Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70
60. For more details about incident reporting please see:

[2]http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/con...

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sender or recipient, for business purposes.

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Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

Dear Ian

Thank you for your enquiry regarding an internal review of your Freedom
of Information Request. For your information, your query has been passed
to our local External Relations Team (Planning and Corporate Services)
for attention and they will be in touch with you shortly.

Should you wish to contact them in the meantime, their details are
below. Please quote your Enquiry Ref 090629SS34 in your correspondence
with us.

External Relations
Planning and Corporate Services
Environment Agency
Thames Region, West Area
Redkite House
Howbery Park
WALLINGFORD
OX10 8BD
Tel: 08708 506506

Kind Regards

Samantha Shaw
National Customer Contact Centre
08708 506 506
www.environment-agency.gov.uk

How did we do?

How would you rate the service you've received from us?

Let us know by completing our online customer survey. The survey
is anonymous and can be accessed via the following link and will only
take a few minutes:


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show quoted sections

Thames West, Customer Contact, Environment Agency

1 Attachment

Link: [1]File-List

Dear Mr Salisbury

CMP167:

Internal review of Freedom of Information request - Dredging the River
Thames above Oxford (WIR30503).

Thank you for your e-mail of 29 June 2009.

You have requested an internal review of the Environment Agency's handling
of your Freedom of Information request about dredging the River Thames
above Oxford. We acknowledge receipt of this request and will be dealing
with it as a complaint.

We take all complaints very seriously and I am sorry to hear you are not
happy about the way we have dealt with your recent Freedom of Information
request.

I have passed this on to Nikki Richards, Planning and Communications
Manager, who is the best person to look into it.

You can contact Nikki Richards on 01491 828560, at
[email address] or at:

Planning and Communication Services

Environment Agency

Thames Region, West Area

Red Kite House, Howbery Park, Wallingford, OX10 8BD

In line with our customer charter, Nikki Richards will contact you with
our response by 13 July 2009.

I attach a leaflet that explains our procedure and what to do if you are
not satisfied with the way we are dealing with your complaint.

Yours sincerely

Nicola

Nicola Cook

Commendations and Complaints Coordinator

Direct Dial: 01491 828 352

External Relations

Planning and Communication Services

Environment Agency

Thames Region, West Area

Red Kite House, Howbery Park, Wallingford, OX10 8BD

show quoted sections

Richards, Nikki J, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury, I'm Nikki Richards the Planning and Communications
Manager for Thames West. I believe you received an email form my colleague
Nicola Cook yesterday confirming that I will be investigating your
complaint. Normally when we carry out an investigation we like to speak to
the individual who has raised the complaint to get more details and
clarify the issues but I understand your preferred method of contact is
email, so please let me know if there are specific points you would like
me to look at.

My initial investigations show that the request was dealt with within
the designated timescales but i would like to look at the detail of how we
dealt with the request to provide a you with a more detailed response. To
do this I need to go through the request with my colleague Jean Faulkner,
who, as you know, dealt with your enquiry. Jean is on leave until 15th
July. I will speak with Jean as a matter of urgency on her return and give
you an update by close of play on the 16th July.

Regards
Nikki

Nikki Richards
Area Planning and Communications Manager- Thames West
Red Kite House
Howberry Park
Crowmarsh Gifford
Wallingford
Oxon
OX10 8BD

External Tel. 01491 828560
Internal Tel. 725 8560

Information in this message may be confidential and may be legally
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We may have to make this message and any reply to it public if asked to
under the Freedom of Information Act, Data Protection Act or for
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Environment Agency address may also be accessed by someone other than the
sender or recipient, for business purposes.

If we have sent you information and you wish to use it please read our
terms and conditions which you can get by calling us on 08708 506 506.
Find out more about the Environment Agency at
[1]www.environment-agency.gov.uk

References

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Thames West, Customer Contact, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury

Thank you for your email of 29 June 2009.

In answer to your queries:

1. We have no information about dredging prior to 1996. All we can say
is that since 1996, we have carried out dredging for navigational
purposes on a reactive basis.

2. We have telemetry data which goes back to 1995 for Osney and 1997
for Godstow. This data is not validated as it was only used by lock
keepers on a day to day basis. We do not use this data for trends, but
for operational purposes only. This data will be supplied to you by
Friday of this week.

Prior to 1995 we have paper records going back 150 years which can be
looked at free of charge. We would have to make a charge if you would
like this information in electronic format. There are 24 sheets per
lock per year. Each sheet would take approximately 5 minutes to
digitise. The cost would therefore be on a time basis for the number of
years information you require.

Yours sincerely

Melinda Crosfield

External Relations Officer
Thames West

Environment Agency
Red Kite House
Howbery Park
Wallingford
OX10 8BD

show quoted sections

Thames West, Customer Contact, Environment Agency

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Salisbury

Further to my colleague's email yesterday, please now find attached the
telemetry data for Osney and Godstow, as promised.

As previously mentioned, please note:
This data is not validated as it was only used by lock keepers on a day
to day basis. We do not use this data for trends, but for operational
purposes only.

This data is supplied with our standard (non-commercial) notice for the
supply of Environment Agency information, also attached.

Should you wish to arrange to see our earlier paper records, please let
us know for which locks and for which years and we will arrange this for
you.

Regards,
Nicola

Nicola Cook
External Relations Officer

External Relations
Planning and Corporate Services
Environment Agency
Thames Region, West Area
Red Kite House, Howbery Park, Wallingford, OX10 8BD

show quoted sections

Richards, Nikki J, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury , Just a quick line to keep you updated on progress of
your complaint. I have spoken to my colleague Jean and have now
completed my review into how we handled your enquiry. I am in the process
of completing my report and I will send you a copy at the beginning of
next week (week commencing 20 July)

Regards
Nikki

Nikki Richards
Area Planning and Corporate Services Manager- Thames West
Red Kite House
Howberry Park
Crowmarsh Gifford
Wallingford
Oxon
OX10 8BD

External Tel. 01491 828560
Internal Tel. 725 8560

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Richards, Nikki J, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury, below is my review of your freedom of information
request. As you did not raise any particular areas of concern I have
reviewed the overall process in relation to:

A. Meeting the timescales set down by the Freedom of Information act
and,

B. How we handled your enquiry

My Findings

A. Meeting the timescales set down by the Freedom of Information act and,

A detailed timeline of events is provided below. I think it is fair to say
this was a complicated request that required significant dialogue between
yourself and the External Relations (ER) team . Effectively I believe
this resulted in the request being handled as three consecutive
requests:

1. The first request was the original request, dated 21 April 2009, which
we responded to 17 working days later, on 15 May 2009.

2. The second request was in relation to our initial response, where
further information is requested in your email dated 22 May 2009. We
responded to this 15 working days later, on 15 June 2009.

3. The final request (to date) was when you asked for further details
in your email dated 29 June. We responded on 9 July 8 working days
later.

For each request we have followed the freedom of information act guidance
and responded within the statutory time limit of 20 working days.

Detailed timeline

I have referred you as Mr Salisbury throughout the timeline to hopefully
add clarity

21 April

FOI request about dredging received at National Customer Contact Centre
(NCCC) (First request)

22 April

Request acknowledged by NCCC and forwarded to Wallingford External
Relations(ER) Team

15 May

Reply sent from Wallingford ER team to Mr Salisbury

15 May

Clarification sort by Mr Salisbury

18 May

ER team responded

22 May

Updated request received by email from Mr Salisbury (Second Request)

27 May

After referring this to our Flood Risk Manager the ER team e-mailed Mr
Salisbury and asked for his telephone number so he could speak directly to
the Flood Risk Manager to help us clarify the request .

28 May

Mr Salisbury phoned the ER team but did not want to speak to Flood Risk
Manager, and reiterated that he wanted to communicate by e-mail. ER team
confirmed that we could still use e-mail but it might be useful for him to
speak to a technical expert and discuss what he wanted us to provide to
help clarify want was required. Mr Salisbury provided his telephone
number. Mr Salisbury detailed the telephone conversation between the ER
team and himself in an e-mail. In that email made it clear that he did
not want raw data but required the collated data our "officers who are in
charge of river level management", use.

28 May, 1 June , 2 June

Our Flood Risk Manager tried to telephone Mr Salisbury and on 28 May, 1
June and 2 June. The ER team forwarded and email from the Flood Risk
Manager saying we had to tried to phone and provided contact details
inviting Mr Salisbury to make contact to discuss the issues.

3 June

ER team received an e-mail from Mr Salisbury saying he wants to
communicate by e-mail.

15 June

ER team send an e-mail response to Mr Salisbury answering his specific
questions posed in his e-mail dated 22 May.

29 June

ER team received an e-mail from Mr Salisbury requesting the raw data
that we hold. This was not sent in our response of 15 June as Mr
Salisbury specifically stated on 28/5 he did not want raw data.

(Third Request)

NCCC receive a request from Mr Salisbury asking for an internal review of
the Environment Agency's handling of the FOI request

30 June

West Area ER team send acknowledgment of the request for a review,
informing Mr Salisbury that we will handle the request as a complaint

1 July

Nikki Richards acknowledges complaint and asks Mr Salisbury if there are
any specific areas of concern.

8 July

ER team respond in part to Mr Salisbury's email from the 29 June

9 July

ER team send out final piece of information relating to the email received
on the 29^th

16 July

Update email on review of FOI request sent out to Mr Salisbury from Nikki
Richards

22 July

Finding of review sent out to Mr Salisbury.

B. How we handled your enquiry

1. The ER team remained in regular contact with you throughout

2. In discussion with the technical staff involved in providing the
information for your request/s, they have revisited the information
provided and are confident that we have given you the most appropriate
information we have relevant to your request/s

3. The ER team sort to clarify what specific information it was you were
requesting and suggested our technical team discuss it with
you. We were unable to get through on the telephone number supplied
and our calls were not returned,

4. You stated your preferred route of communication was via email, which
I understand allows you to keep track of our responses and know where
you are. as I mentioned earlier this was a complicated request, I
believe this process would have benefited from a conversation between
you and our technical specialists which could have the been confirmed
by an email afterward.

5. We acted promptly to your request for a review .

Conclusion

I believe that we have endeavoured to be open and honest with our
responses to your requests and we have supplied the most relevant
information we have available. We maintained communication throughout the
process and sort clarity from you on several occasions.

I am satisfied that we responded to your request in a timely and
appropriate way

Regards

Nikki.

Nikki Richards

Area Planning and Corporate Services Manager

Environment Agency,

Thames Region, West Area,

Red Kite House, Howbery Park, Crowmash Gifford,

Wallingford,

OX10 8BD.

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Dear Nikki Richards,

Thank you for your email. You have analysed the timeline but not, it appears, whether or not you have provided the information I have asked for. Please review my request:

1. So as to inform me under s.1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act whether or not you hold this information, and

2. If you have the information, please provide it to me under s.1(1)(b).

In replying, please bear in mind the following:

a. Your email of 15 May 2009 did not provide me with an answer to my question, but rather than del with the entire reach referred only to local dredging. You did not define "in recent times", but clearly there had been a change in policy which you did not mention, as was later described. You have not answered the fourth question on my email, that is to say whether or not you have scientific information on which your no-dredging policy has been determined.

b. In reply to my emails of 22 and 28 May, you informed me of the changes in the responsible authority and referred me to the Thames Conservancy Act 1932. That was helpful. However, you were selective in your quotation from the 1932 Act. Section 49(1) is as follows:

"49. The Conservators may from time to time do
all or any of the things following (namely) :—
"(1) For the purpose of maintaining and improving
ballasting and freeing or keeping free from obstruction the navigation—
(a) Dredge cleanse and scour the Thames;
(b) Alter deepen restrict enlarge widen
diminish lengthen shorten straighten and
improve the bed and channel of the Thames;
(c) Reduce or remove any shoals shelves
banks or other accumulations in the Thames;
(d) Abate or remove or cause to be abated
or removed all impediments obstructions and
annoyances and all nuisances and abuses
whatsoever in the Thames or on the banks
or shores thereof"

Whereas section 76 states:

"76. It shall be the duty of the Conservators to maintain as far as reasonably practicable at the normal of level the water in any reach in which any intake of the Water Board is situate but the water in such reach may be reduced below such level for the purpose of dealing with floods or for any other reasonable purpose..."

I have looked at subsequent legislation and it appears to me that the duty to act to deal with floods has not been repealed. It appears to me that by a purposive interpretation of the law, reducing the level of water to prevent floods would therefore be considered to be your duty.

c. You do not say, but it appears that your policy since 1996 has been directed only towards freeing the navigation, not acting to prevent floods. You will doubtless correct me if my reading of the legislation is incorrect, but if not it appears to me that your email of 15 June was incomplete in that it failed to address your duty of flood prevention.

I have now analysed the telemetry data that you have kindly provided for the Godstow tail and the Osney tail. It occurs to me that the important data is not surge heights or winter levels but the summer levels when the water level will more accurately reflect the depth (or more correctly, height) of the river bed. At Osney it appears to me that from 1995 until 2009 there has been a consistent and even rise in this level over this period, amounting overall to 150mm. At Godstow from 1997 until 2009 the rise (again, remarkably evenly spread over the period) has been 160mm. Given the change in policy in 1996 and the steady rise thereafter, it appears to me that this change may have been significant to the 2007 July floods, and that in consequence you have failed in your duty to protect against flooding.

Please inform me whether you have any information concerning or relating to this rise in the level of the river bed. If you have that information, please supply it. The information should not only contain raw data, it should include any analysis of or comment on the data that is in your possession. It should not be limited to the stretch of water first mentioned but should now include the whole length of the fresh water navigation of the River Thames.

If you have any difficulty in providing this information, please contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Richards, Nikki J, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury, thank you for your reply. I am out of the office for
the next couple of days and I will need some time to look into points
you have raised. I will contact next week to provide you with an update

Regards
Nikki

Nikki Richards

Area Planning and Corporate Services Manager
Environment Agency,
Thames Region, West Area,

show quoted sections

Dear Nikki Richards

Further to my last email, you can find rather a poorly reproduced copy of the graph I made from your telemetry data at http://www.salisbury.uk.com/Allotment/Te....

The graph was made first by automatic transposition of the data. I overlaid this with the straight red lines, which is my subjective interpretation of the data but which, I think, fairly indicates that there has been a steady increase in the river level since dredging ceased, which rise is likely to have had an unfavourable effect on flooding. This of course will most likely apply not only to the stretch of river that is the subject of the data that you have provided, but to the whole of the freshwater navigation of the Thames / Isis.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Richards, Nikki J, Environment Agency

Thank you for your email, I am out of the office until Monday 27 July

Karen Parker has my full delegated authority

Please contact Karen on 01491 828489 if your enquiry is urgent.

Regards
Nikki Richards
Planning and Corporate Services Manager

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Richards, Nikki J, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury, thank you for the copy of your graph. I have passed
this on to some of my technical colleagues for review and comment. I will
add these comments to our response to the questions you raised in your
email dated 23 July. I will send you our response week commencing 3
August.

Regards.
Nikki

Nikki Richards.

show quoted sections

Dear Ms Richards,

Thank you for your email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Richards, Nikki J, Environment Agency

4 Attachments

Dear Mr Salisbury, thank you for your emails dated 23 July and 24 July. I
have asked our legal team to address your comments about my review with
particular reference to your points 1 and 2 to ensure I have not missed
anything. I will provide a progress report next week (week commencing 10
August).

I do have some feedback in response to some of the more detailed questions
raised in your email dated the 23 July, these are listed below.

You asked the question do we have scientific information on which our
policy was based, just to confirm , No we do not have scientific evidence
on which our approach to dredging has been since 1996.

I note your comments regarding the Thames Conservancy Act. However, to
clarify section 76 does not place a duty on the Agency to reduce water
levels to prevent flooding. Section 76 places a duty on the Agency to
maintain the normal level of water within a reach for the purposes of
abstraction. There is an exception to this rule in that the Agency is not
under a duty to maintain the normal water level for abstraction when
dealing with floods or for any other reasonable purposes".

Further in deciding whether to exercise its power to dredge under section
49 of the Thames Conservancy Act, the Agency must also take competing
considerations, such as conservation of the environment into account. I
refer you to sections 4-7 of the Environment Act 1995 (a link to a copy of
the act is listed below). Section 4 relates to the principal aims and
objectives of the Environment Agency and section 6 relates to the general
duties of the Agency in respect of the water environment.

Link to the Environment Act 1995:

[1]http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1995/Ukp...

Thank you for your plot of the telemetry data. Your results have been
noted by our flood forecasting team. While they have not commented on your
plot specifically they have commented that recent years have been wetter
on average and therefore the flow in the river has been higher during the
summer months.The most recent period (post 1995) has included notable
floods - for example July 2007. In addition 2008 was a very wet summer
with 184% of the average rainfall between April and September. The higher
river flows result in higher levels in the river, which is reflected in
the telemetry records at Osney and Godstow.

Your opinion regarding the possible effect our change in approach to
dredging since 1996 has had on river bed levels is noted.

We are still looking into your request for information on potential rises
in the level of the river bed along the whole length of the freshwater
navigation of the Thames. I will get back to you next week ( week
commencing 10 August)

I have attached the monthly mean data for the Thames locks and gauging
stations for the whole period of record that we hold, in case this maybe
useful to you. The data is reported to a local datum. If you want the data
in mAODN, then please add the appropriate datum offset to the data. The
datum offsets are attached in the Lock ODN.pdf file. For the upstream
stage (HU) please add the SHWL value to the local levels, for the
downstream stage (HD) please add the TAIL GPZ value to the local levels.
I've attached a diagram of a lock to help explain the lock datums. I've
inserted the datum offsets for the gauging stations in the spreadsheet.
The gauging stations are identified by the suffix GSTN in the spreadsheet.
We do not hold electronic records for Boveney, Hambledon, Sandford or
Temple locks.

I must make clear that the lock data is raw and unchecked and we do not
guarantee it's quality. There are many instances of missing or poor
quality data with the lock datasets. The gauging station data is on the
whole much more reliable.

Regards

Nikki

Nikki Richards - Area Planning and Corporate Services Manager

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Dear Ms Richards,

Thank you for your email. I shall look forward to hearing from you concerning the legal status of the EA policy in due course.

You have told me that you "do not have scientific
evidence on which [your] approach to dredging has been since 1996". This statement has surprised me for I have to hand a copy of a letter written by Mr Innes Jones, your South East Thames Area Manager to Mr J--- L--- of Bisham, Marlow, Berkshire on 4 August 2009 in which he said:

"Dredging of the River Thames is carried out for two main reasons: Navigation and Flood Risk Management (FRM)".

Concerning dredging for FRM purposes, Mr Jones says there are two separate methods, as follows:

"The first, maintenance dredging, typically consists of improving conveyance by removing large volumes of silt and only has a negligible effect on reducing flood risk during small flood events.

"The second method is re-profiling, in which the riverbed cross-section would be significantly changed by removing part of the hard bed material. This was done over half a century following the 1947 flood, lowering the bed of the river by about a foot. Further deepening would require associated bank stabilisation works and would involve much greater costs in disposing of the dredged material than applied last century. As such, it does not offer an economically cost beneficial way to reduce flood risk and has major environmental impacts. It is not therefore, a preferred option."

In passing, I would say that since the river bed was lowered by a foot in 1947, from my own analysis there is credible evidence that at least 7 inches has been redeposited, and it is this which provides me with the impetus to continue my line of inquiry. For I find it difficult to know what evidence Mr Jones is relying upon in making his assertions to Mr L--- if it is not scientific. I would therefore be grateful if you would provide me with the information, be it 'scientific' or not, which Mr Jones has relied upon. Please firstly identify this information (or the lack of it) and then provide it if you have it by way of this on-line forum. Please provide the following:

1. The information which has engendered the reasons for dredging for FRM.

2. The extent, frequency and record of the "regular monitoring and survey work that tells [you] how sediment has moved around".

3. The evidence which has led Mr Jones to assert that "removing large volumes of silt ... only has a negligible effect on reducing flood risk during small flood events".

4. Any evidence that Mr Jones may have overlooked in respect of the effect of removing silt on reducing flood risk during anything other than "small flood events".

5. The evidence which Mr Jones relies upon to assert that any "further deepening" of the river bed beyond about a foot would require associated bank stabilisation works.

6. Any evidence that if the river was to be re-profiled and maintained at its 1947 level that bank stabilisation and other associated engineering works would be required.

7. A copy of your risk assessment which has led Mr Jones to assert that re-profiling "does not offer an economically cost beneficial way to reduce flood risk". (The implication is well noted that there is a benefit which Mr Jones knows about, but which the EA overlooks on grounds of expediency.)

8. A copy of your environmental assessment which has led Mr Jones to assert that re-profiling "has major environmental impacts". (Again, this appears to be a balancing exercise.)

9. A copy of your Flood Management Risk Register for the River Thames and its tributaries.

Concerning your own email to me, please identify the flood forecasting team and provide me with a copy of all the internal correspondence exchanged with this team including meeting notes and other relevant information that has arisen in consequence of the team being apprised of this exchange of information. In respect of this, I am sure that your flood protection team will have recognised that in my own analysis of your 10-year data, I ignored surge and winter levels and only took those levels likely to be least affected by the unusual weather patterns of the last three years.

May I also ask you to provide me with the following information for the period since 1996:

10. Any change (annual) in the frequency of complaints that you have received from landowners and tenants who hold stock on land adjacent to the Thames stating that farm animals have crossed the stream / river.

Please also provide me with:

11. The information which led you to assert (as I understand) to the Countryside Officer of Oxford City Council that "[you] are not concerned about the river upstream of the Botley Road and are concentrating on a flood alleviation solution south of Botley Road along the Seacourt Stream and other watercourses in that part of the floodplain";

12. The means by which this particular 'flood alleviation solution' is expected to alleviate flooding, and

13. The legislation on which EA relies so as to engage in a flood alleviation scheme in one part of the river (say Botley and Marlow), while not in another (say Wolvercote and Bisham).

Thank you for the additional information that you have provided. Finally, you say that my views have been noted. Please provide me with a copy of that note. I look forward to receiving the information I have requested in this and my earlier correspondence.

Please note that on completion of my inquiry, it is my intention to assess the information provided against Article 1 (Protection of Property) of the First Protocol in Part II of Schedule 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and, if necessary, to bring to the attention of the European Commission any lacuna in the legislation which you have mentioned that fails to allow for the protection of property from the flooding of artificially controlled streams and rivers. Before doing so I will, of course, alert my local MP and MEP.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Richards, Nikki J, Environment Agency

Thank you for your email, I am out of the office until Wednesday 12
August. Martin Long has my full delegated authority

Please contact Martin on 01491 828587 if your enquiry is urgent.

Regards
Nikki Richards
Planning and Corporate Services Manager

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Richards, Nikki J, Environment Agency

Mr Salisbury, thank you for your email. Either myself or one of my
colleagues will be in contact in due course.

Regards
Nikki

Nikki Richards
Area Planning and Corporate Services Manager- Thames West
External Tel. 01491 828560
Internal Tel. 725 8560

show quoted sections

Richards, Nikki J, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury, in my email dated 7th August i indicated i would
provide a progress update this week. I have no new information for you and
we are still looking into your requests. We will get back to you in due
course.

Regards
Nikki

Nikki Richards
Area Planning and Corporate Services Manager- Thames West
Red Kite House
Howberry Park
Crowmarsh Gifford
Wallingford
Oxon
OX10 8BD

External Tel. 01491 828560
Internal Tel. 725 8560

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Dear Nikki Richards,

Thank you, and I look forward to receiving it.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Ian Salisbury left an annotation ()

Awaiting supplementary information.

Ferretti, Sarah, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury,

Environmental Information Regulations: Review of Correspondence: Dredging
of the River Thames

I refer to your email of 23 July 2009 and previous correspondence with the
Environment Agency ("The Agency"), which has been passed to me for a
response. In your email of 23 July you requested a review of your request
(email of 29 June 2009), to inform you under s.1(1)(a) of the Freedom of
Information Act ("FOIA") whether or not you hold the information and where
the information is held, to have that provided to you. For the avoidance
of doubt, I have clarified Nikki Richards's penultimate paragraph in her
response to you of 22 July 2009 below.

Please note that the FOIA and EIR only apply to `information' held by the
Agency. Section 84 of the FOIA defines information as `information in a
recorded format'. The FOIA and EIR do not require public authorities to
create new information in order to respond to a request.

These requests relate to Environmental Information and consequently the
Environmental Information Regulations 2007 (EIR) apply. To clarify, where
it is stated below, that the Agency does not hold information, the duty to
make this information available to you under EIR Regulation 5(1) does not
arise because in accordance with EIR Regulation 3(2) we do not hold the
information you have requested.

Taking your requests in turn:

Your email of 21 April 2009, to which the Agency responded on 15 May 2009

1. "When the river Thames was last dredged between Osney
Bridge and Godstow Lock to the north west". The Agency did not hold this
information, but sourced general knowledge and opinion and responded to
you on 15 May 2009.

2. Whether there has been a ("no dredging policy") please
inform me whether you hold scientific information on which that policy
decision was taken and identify?" I can confirm that following extensive
searches, the Agency does not hold recorded information on any `policy'
change and consequently its scientific basis.

3. "If such a policy decision was taken, please identify
the policy for dredging that preceded it and provide me with the terms of
that policy, including scientific information on which the depths of
dredging were determined". I confirm that the Agency does not hold a `last
dredging policy' and consequently does not hold information on its
scientific basis or information in relation to determining its depths.

Your email of 15 May 2009, to which the Agency responded on 18 May 2009

4. "Please can I see a copy of that [dredging] policy?" I confirm
that the Agency does not hold a written `policy' on dredging. However, to
the extent that the document "a users guide to the River Thames" and the
Agency's briefing note entitled "channel maintenance" details guideline
consideration which would currently be taken into account in any decision
to dredge, these documents were supplied on the 15 May 2009 and 18 May
2009 respectively.

Your email of 22 may, to which the Agency responded on 15 June 2009

5. "I would like to know precisely what that policy [on dredging]
is?" Please see my answer to 4 above.

6. Request for "cause in the change in the practice of mechanical
river dredging to self dredging". This is not an EIR request to the extent
that the Agency does not hold recorded information relating to this
request. However, opinions were sourced and a response provided on 15 June
2009.

7. "What happened to the dredger I used to see": This is not an
EIR request to the extent that the Agency does not hold recorded
information concerning this request. However, general knowledge was
sourced and a response was provided on 15 June 2009.

8. Location and frequency of use of dredger: Information
concerning the location was provided on 15 June 2009. I can confirm that
the Agency does not hold recorded information on the frequency of use of
the dredger.

9. Capacity of equipment and human resources: This is not a FOIA
request to the extent that the Agency does not hold recorded information
concerning this request, However information was sourced and a response
was provided on 15 June 2009

10. Reason why routine dredging was abandoned, providing me with the
information, be it financial or environmental or both, that gave rise to
that decision. This is not an EIR request to the extent that the Agency
does not hold recorded information concerning this request. However,
opinions were sourced and a response provided on 15 June 2009.

11. When the decision referred to in 10 above was taken? This is not
an EIR request to the extent that the Agency does not hold recorded
information concerning this request. However opinions were sourced and a
response was provided on 15 June 2009.

12 Request for a copy of your records of the river level for the
stretch of water that I am inquiring about for the last 50 years,
attaching to that information any significant event such as changes to
sluices, exceptional weather and changes to the dredging practice etc that
may indicate a reason for any change in the long-term mean level of the
river. This request was qualified by your email of 28 June to require
collated and not raw data.

You were advised on 15 June that raw, unanalysed and
undigitised data, covering the river levels for the last 50 year time
period, in the form of lockkeeper's ledgers is held and available from the
Agency's office in Reading. This is the most comprehensive data available
in relation to your request. As previously advised, you may view this
data free of charge at the Agency's office. Alternatively, the sheets can
be digitally scanned and provided to you. Due to the resource implications
of this you will need to contact the Agency to discuss your requirements
and the resultant supply charge.

The Agency does not hold collated and analysed river level
data in respect of changes to sluices, exceptional weather or purported
changes to dredging practice.

The Agency holds correlated river level data on peak river
levels for exceptional flood events and this was supplied to you on 15
June 2009.

Your first email of 29 June, to which the Agency responded on 7 July 2009

13. You requested when a decision was made about abandoning routine
dredging. If this was also in 1996, please confirm it or identify the
date?. As confirmed in the email of 7 July the Agency does not hold
information related to this request.

14. On 29 July, you requested seasonal or periodic mean river levels
as well as comprehensive date for surge levels".

In regards to comprehensive data I refer you to my answer to
12 above.

On 7 July telemetry data setting out the mean monthly river
levels was provided to you for a period of approximately 10 years. As
previously advised, the Agency does not hold digitised and analysed mean
river levels going beyond this time period as the locks in question did
not have telemetry devices fitted which automatically measuring the river
levels. As previously advised on 15 June and 7 July, the most
comprehensive (raw) data is held in the form of lockkeeper's ledgers.

I consider that the Agency has endeavoured to be open and honest in its
responses to you. On occasions, the Agency did not explicitly state that
it did not hold information under the EIR. However, in those situations
the Agency supplied you with the best available data. I consider that the
Agency has conducted an extensive search for the information you have
requested and has provided all the data which it holds.

If you are not satisfied with our response to your request for a review,
you can make an appeal to the Information Commissioner, who is the
statutory regulator for Freedom of Information. The address is: Office of
the Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Tel: 01625 545700.

Fax: 01625 524 510.

Email:[email address].

Website: http//www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

Yours sincerely

Sarah Ferretti

Advisory Solicitor - Thames

Kings Meadow House,

Kings Meadow Road,

Reading RG1 8DQ

Direct Dial 01189 535338

Fax 01189 509440

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Thames West, Customer Contact, Environment Agency

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Salisbury

Our Ref Wir 30503

In your e-mail dated 23 July 2009 you request:

"whether you have any information concerning or
relating to this rise in the level of the river bed. If you have
that information, please supply it. The information should not only
contain raw data, it should include any analysis of or comment on
the data that is in your possession. It should not be limited to
the stretch of water first mentioned but should now include the
whole length of the fresh water navigation of the River Thames"

Please find attached an Excel spreadsheet summarising the riverbed survey
data we hold for the River Thames.

Please advise what data you require.

Please be aware that before we can supply you with this information, we
require payment. Our charges were revised from 1 July 2009 and this
request, including licensing your use of information, is calculated as
follows:

The time spent by our staff in providing you with the information
requested, current rates being £25.00 per hour. These charges are not
subject to VAT.

Staff time to supply post 2000 survey data is estimated at 3 hours per
survey per reach.

Staff time to supply pre 2000 survey data is estimated at between 1 - 2
hours per survey per reach

In addition, there will be a processing fee of £5.00 for payment by card,
or £25.00 for payment by cheque.

We also have a 2009 Siltation Study for the River Thames between
Teddington and Hurley. This is a fairly large document (approx. 80 pages
including colour charts) and we can either arrange for you to view it at
our office for free, or alternatively, we will need to calculate the cost
of reproducing this study so it can be sent to you.

Yours sincerely,

External Relations Team

Environment Agency

West Area

Red Kite House

Howbery Park

Wallingford

OX10 8BD

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Dear Thames West, Customer Contact,

Thank you for your answer reviewing previous correspondence, and I am grateful to you for the comprehensive way in which you have dealt with the matter (19 August). I am particularly grateful to you for pointing out the relevant legislation.

Concerning your second response (20 August), you may be aware that there is now parallel interest in this matter from an inquirer in the Bisham area further down the river (http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/dr..., with whom I am now in contact. I shall therefore revert to you when I have consulted with others.

I have noted that the review, when carried out for the second time, was conducted by a solicitor. I have also noticed that the date in which you revised you policy on charging for the supply of information occurred after this inquiry was started. I accept that the provision for making charges is to recover you reasonable expenses for the production of information but it must not be used to discourage bona fide inquiries.

So that there is no doubt about the bona fides of this inquiry, I would be grateful if you would note that I have reached a conclusion, on the basis of information provided to date, that you have not taken account of the 1947 flood and the response of the competent authority at that time which concluded that dredging was a necessary response to silting and flood protection.

I would be grateful therefore, so as to assure me that your change of policy was not introduce so as to discourage inquiries, if you would supply me with copies of the information that was considered in reaching the decision to revise the charging policy.

So that this inquiry does not confuse this present inquiry, I shall make this the subject of a separate inquiry.

Yours faithfully,
Ian Salisbury

Dear Thames West, Customer Contact,

Further to yesterday's reply, please describe the extent of the information contained within the surveys. My interest is to determine whether it is possible to compare the level of the river bed between the different surveys.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Dear Sir or Madam,

I have seen the information that you have made available on Mr Mike Post's inquiry at
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/dr....

I have been alerted by the content of the paragraph "Consultation" on page 4 of the attached Halcrow report. This states: "Environment Agency staff representing all the functions of the Agency in relation to the River Thames have been consulted regarding the risks associated with alternative dredging strategies. There is particular concern for the impact of dredging on water quality ..., river geomorphology with regard to habitat destruction, bank stability and damage to structures. The main concern raised over discontinuation of dredging is the impact on navigation rights. The impact on flood risk is considered to be low by Agency staff."

That appears to me to be a record of the views of Agency staff. Halcrow's recommendation is for further sediment monitoring, implying perhaps that they do not accept the Agency's views. The conclusion which led to this recommendation appears to be confirmed in the Overview on page 1 where in relation to natural erosion of the river bed Halcrow says: "There is uncertainty surrounding the extent to which this self-scouring mechanism removes sediment".

I have also noted that in the second paragraph of the covering letter to Mr Post, you say: "the removal of large volumes of silt ... only has a negligible effect on reducing flood risk during small flood events", which naturally leads to the possibility that the qualifier "small" was inserted because you are aware that the silting up of rivers directly affects the extent of the damage caused by infrequent major flooding incidents such as occurred in 1947, 2003 and 2007.

It therefore appears that the information that I have sought has not been provided. I refer in particular to the very first inquiry that I sent to you on 21 April. You have carried out a review but yet your review appears to be contradicted by at least some of the information you have provided to Mr Post. Please therefore re-review the information you have provided for me to ascertain that you have satisfied the statutory requirements. Also:

1. Please inform me whether or not any study / studies of raw data pertaining to river sediment, such as (for instance) that carried out by Halcrow, has been undertaken for the Thames above Temple, and if so, please provide a copy / copies.

2. For the avoidance of doubt please confirm the readings for the river bed level in table 1 of the Halcrow report sent to Mr Post are fixed by reference to a fixed datum level and that they were taken at the same locations at roughly the same time in the different sub-reaches.

Yours faithfully,

Ian Salisbury

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

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But my e-mail refers to an Environmental Incident, won't it get answered
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Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

Dear Ian

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. For your information,
your query has been passed to our local External Relations Team
(Planning and Corporate Services) for attention and they will be in
touch with you shortly.

Should you wish to contact them in the meantime, their details are
below. Please quote your Enquiry Ref 090902/jc019 in your correspondence
with us.

External Relations
Planning and Corporate Services
Environment Agency
Thames Region, West Area
Redkite House
Howbery Park
WALLINGFORD
OX10 8BD
Tel: 08708 506506

Kind regards

Joanne Carney
Customer Service Advisor
National Customer Contact Centre
Environment Agency

Tel: 08708 506 506

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show quoted sections

Ferretti, Sarah, Environment Agency

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Salisbury,

Please find attached a letter in respect of your information requests
dated of 11 August 2009, 28 August 2009, 29 August 2009 and 2 September
2009.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Ferretti

Solicitor (Thames)

Environment Agency

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Dear Sir or Madam,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

Further to my telephone conversation with your Ms Ferretti this morning I am writing to let you know that I shall request an internal review of Environment Agency's handling of my FOI request 'Dredging the River Thames above Oxford' in due course.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/dr...

Yours faithfully,

Ian Salisbury

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

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Ian Salisbury left an annotation ()

The request for information has been refused; a review of that decision will be requested.

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury

Thank you for your enquiry regarding a internal review of you Freedom of
Information request.

I have forwarded your email to Sarah Ferretti who will be able to pass
this information to the relevant officer.

Kind Regards

Rebecca

Rebecca Cranfield

Environment Agency

Customer Services Advisor

National Customer Contact Centre

08708 506 506

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show quoted sections

Dear Environment Agency,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Environment Agency's handling of my FOI request 'Dredging the River Thames above Oxford'.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/dr...

I would be grateful if you would refer to the letter of 8 September 2009 from Ms Sarah Ferretti that is posted on this web page.

Ms Ferretti considers the Environment Agency is entitled to withhold the information I have requested under regulation 12(4)(b) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. She says that I have been repetitive in my requests for information. As I shall show, this is not the case. But the entire train of information that has been provided has been confused, contradictory and inscrutable, and contrary to the requirement of the law.

Ms Ferretti fails to provide particular examples of her justification of repetitiveness but refers to my requests of 11 August, 28 August, 29 August and 1 September. In turn:

1. Request of 11 August. In the reply that I referred to, information that I received from another of your correspondents apparently contradicted the information you had provided to me. The first part of my letter sought clarification so as to ascertain which of the two versions was accurate. The second part of the letter was generated because I was warned by a City of Oxford Councillor that your organisation had information on the topics that I then raised but had so far failed to disclose it. This was confirmed by a former employee of yours who, with me, had attended a meeting of the Oxford Flood Alliance. In any event, none of my requests was repetitive in this request, and accordingly the information should have been supplied. Please ensure that the Environment Agency provides it.

2. Request of 28 August 2009. This request was about charging policy. This was not a request had had been made before and it was not a repetitive request. Please ensure that the Environment Agency identifies this information and provides it.

3. Request of 29 August 2009. This was a supplementary question to help me to clarify a gap in the information provided to me the previous day. It is clear that without this information, the information that you did provide was valueless. This was not a repeat request. Please ensure that the Environment Agency identifies this information and provides it.

4. Request of 2 September 2009. By reference to information you had provided to others, this was a complaint (with reference to that information) that you had failed to provide the information to me. This, it seems to me, indicates that you had been acting in breach of the law. The information that I asked for was not a repeat of information that I had requested elsewhere, but a request arising out of the partial and incomplete information that you had provided to me. Please ensure that the Environment Agency identifies the information I have requested and provides it.

None of my requests has been repetitive. There is therefore no justification for the exemption on which you seek to rely. Moreover, if you provide this information it may well result in a management of the bed of the River Thames that will significantly reduce the misery caused by a failure to ensure that the river does not over top its banks.

I shall look forward to hearing from promptly, as the law requires.

Yours faithfully,

Ian Salisbury

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

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Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

Dear Ian

Thank you for your enquiry regarding an 'Internal Review of Freedom of
Information request - Dredging the River Thames above Oxford'.

You will be please to know that I have forwarded your request to our
Freedom of Information team.

I trust this information is of use to you.

If you have any further queries please do let us know and we will be happy
to help.

Kind Regards

Matthew Bembridge
Customer Service Advisor
Environment Agency
National Customer Contact Centre
08708 506 506

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P Please Consider The Environment - Do You Really Need To Print This
E-Mail?

P Ystyriwch Yr Amgylchedd - Oes Rhaid I Chi Brintio'r E-Bost Hwn?

show quoted sections

Dear Mr Bembridge

Thank you for your email. As you will see, it is a review of the information I have (or have not) received that I am requesting. May I please have your assurance that the review will be independent of the process about which I have made complaint?

Many thanks.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

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Dear Enquiries, Unit,

I refer to the holding reply that you sent me on 17 February, but I believe that by now you should, by law, have provided me with the information that I have requested. Please kindly do so with the least delay.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

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Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

1 Attachment

Dear Ian

Thank you for your enquiry regarding an FOI request.

I have forwarded your emails to the team dealing with your request who
will be in touch with you shortly.

Please feel free to contact us should you have any further queries and
we will be happy to help

Kind Regards

James Pearson
Customer Service Advisor
National Customer Contact Centre
08708 506 506
[Environment Agency request email]

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show quoted sections

Dear Enquiries, Unit,

I refer to my letter of 8 April 2010 in which I said:

"I refer to the holding reply that you sent me on 17 February, but I believe that by now you should, by law, have provided me with the information that I have requested. Please kindly do so with the least delay."

As of tomorrow, my request for information will be one year old. It appears to me that although you have provided some information, this is incomplete and has in degree been less than satisfactory. It has been the unsatisfactory and incomplete nature of the information you have provided that has led this inquiry to be costly.

I would be grateful now to have your immediate and complete response to my enquiry, without charge. Failure to provide the information within 20 days will result in a reference to the Information Commissioner.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

Thank you for contacting the Environment Agency. Please see below
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Ian Salisbury left an annotation ()

This request was made on 21 April 2009.

Ferretti, Sarah, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury,

I write further to your email of 8 April 2010 sent to the Enquiries Unit
of the Environment Agency which has been forwarded to me. Your query
concerned a holding response received on 17 February, in relation
to a request for freedom of Information review, which you sent on 16
February 2010. I can confirm that a response was sent from Pete Carty of
the Environment Agency to the following email
address: [1][email address] on 9 April 2010.

Please can you let me know whether this response has been received.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Ferretti
Environment Agency

Tel: 01189 535338
Fax: 01189 509440
P Reduce your travel footprint - change at least one meeting you have
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Dear Ms Ferretti,

Thank you for your email of 20 April 2010. I have been corresponding with Mr Carty about another matter. This inquiry, to which I have not received a reply in conformity with the stipulations of the Freedom of Information Act was raised over a year ago on 21 April 2010. On review of the lengthy correspondence (generated, in my view, by an unwillingness on your part to comply with the requirements of the Act), the closest you appeared to come to providing that information was on 7 and 9 July last year (See http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/dr... ). This information, incidentally, was provided only after I had requested a review.

On inspection of the data provided, it was evident that it did not completely answer my inquiry, but it did tend to support the hypothesis that the River Thames was flowing generally at a higher level since routine dredging was abandoned (with the commensurate increased risk to the flooding of West Oxford); and so I told you. That resulted in the production, by you, of further information on 7 August 2009.

That you were providing further information led me to suspect that you had not initially been thorough. Moreover, on reading information given to others further downstream after I had received assurances about the limited extent of information in your possession, I was led to doubt the veracity of the assurances you had been providing concerning the extent of information in your possession.

After a further exchange of correspondence, yet further information was provided on 20 August 2009. However, this was a mere catalogue and not the information requested. Then on 8 September you wrote to inform me that:

"After considering all relevant factors, in my view the considerable adverse effects of releasing this information outweigh the factors in favour of disclosing it."

Those adverse effects appear to have be "frequent and repetitive requests", an observation that is in my view disingenuous when the large amount of correspondence was generated by an apparent failure on your part to answer my year-old inquiry.

On 16 February 2010 I asked you to carry out a review. This appears not to have been done.

On 20 April 2010 I wrote to inform you that if within 20 days I had not received a complete response to my inquiry I would refer the matter to the Information Commissioner. That date falls on 10 May. I look forward to hearing from you before then.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Ferretti, Sarah, Environment Agency

I will be out of the office on Thursday 29 April 2010, returning on Friday
30 April 2010.

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Ferretti, Sarah, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury,

Thank you for your email of 29 April 2010. It is my understanding that
Mr Carty is dealing with your request.

Yours sincerely
Sarah Ferretti

show quoted sections

Ian Salisbury

Dear Ms Ferretti,

Thank you for your email, just received.

Mr Carty is responding to a separate request that I made on 28 August 2009 over your charging policy, not this request.

In an email sent to me earlier today Mr Carty suggested that my separate inquiry into your charging policy falls under the provisions of the Environmental Information ("EI") Regulations 2004. Whereas I believe that not to be the case for the information that he is to provide, those Regulations must without doubt attach to this inquiry. It follows that your duty falls under EI Regulation 5(2). That duty, expressly stated, is to make the information available "as soon as possible and no later than 20 working days after the date of receipt of the request". The date of my request was as long ago as 21 April 2009. I therefore look forward to your immediate provision of the information I have asked for.

Please be aware that Regulation 19 of the EI Regulations echoes similar provisions in the FOI Act, providing that an offence will be committed by any person who alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals any record of the public authority with the
intention of preventing the disclosure to an applicant of the information that they are entitled to receive under regulation 5. The maximum fine is level 5 on the standard scale.

For the avoidance of doubt, this email follows from a request that I made for a review. I am entitled to this for EI Regulation 11 provides that a person who has requested environmental information from a public authority may make representations to the authority if it appears that the authority has not complied with the requirements of the Regulations in relation to the request. Without doubt, that is how it appears to me. These representations must be considered by the authority free of charge. It also provides that a public authority must make a decision on those representations as soon as possible and no later than 40 working days after the date of receipt of the representations. This period has also now been exceeded, for my request for a review was made on 29 June 2009.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Ferretti, Sarah, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury,

Thank you for clarifying that the charging query is not the subject of
your current email.

I note that you now refer to a review requested on 29 June 2009.

After looking at the documentation, you first requested a review dated
29 June 2009, to which Nikki Edwards of the Agency responded to on 22
July 2009. You then requested a second review of 23 July 2009 to which I
responded on 19 August 2009.

As such I do not see that there is a review dated 29 June 2009, which is
outstanding. To the extent that your request for information or a review
relates to another email or request then for the avoidance of doubt,
please clarify your request, so I can deal accordingly.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Ferretti

show quoted sections

Ian Salisbury

Dear Ms Ferretti,

Thank you for your email. You are right, I gave you the wrong date; my apology. The date should have been 16 February 2010.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Ferretti, Sarah, Environment Agency

I will be out of the office from Wednesday 12 May, returning on Tuesday 18
May 2010. If you have any urgent queries which cannot wait until my
return, please contact Pete Carty, Advisory Team leader on 01189 535175

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Ferretti, Sarah, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury,

Thank you for your email, which clarified that your request related to
the 16 February 2010.

According to the documentation, on 16 February you requested a review of
your dredging enquiries and more particularly my letter of refusal dated
8 September 2009.

Your request of 16 February 2010 was originally passed to Peter Carty,
who responded to your request for a review by his email of 9 April 2010.

On 8 April 2010 you emailed the Environment Agency to request an update
of your request for a review of 16 February 2010, as confirmed in your
email of 17 February 2010 to Mr Benbridge of the Environment Agency. I
responded to that email on 20 April 2010, advising you that Peter Carty
had responded to your request on 9 April 2010 and requesting
confirmation of whether you had received that email.

As you have clarified that the charging query is not the subject of this
current email and as your request of 16 February 2010 for a review of
the dredging queries was responded to on 9 April 2010 by Peter Carty, I
do not see that there are any outstanding matters.

Yours sincerely
Sarah Ferretti

show quoted sections

Ian Salisbury

Dear Ms Ferretti,

Thank you for your email. You correctly identify 16 February as being the date which I confirmed as being the date of the email that I referred to, but it does not deal with the matter requested. I said: "The information that I asked for was not a repeat of information that I had requested elsewhere, but a request arising out of the partial and incomplete information that you had provided to me. Please ensure that the Environment Agency identifies the information I have requested and provides it."

The information that I have requested has been as follows:

1. The information that I requested on 21 April 2009 was partially answered on 15 May 2009. I had asked for information relating to your change in dredging policy but the information provided did not include that policy, it only referred to it.

2. I asked for a copy of that policy on 15 May 2009. On 18 May 2009 you replied saying that the use of the word "policy" had been misleading, adding that there was no "explicit policy on dredging, more a risk based approach within guidelines". I therefore replied on 22 May 2009, saying "You clearly do have a policy on dredging, even if it is not framed as a policy document, and I would like to know please precisely what that policy is." (This assertion was, incidentally, confirmed by what Mr Peter Fox, your North-West Regional Flood Manager said on the BBC's Farming Today programme this morning when he said there "had been far less dredging in the past 20 years or so" because the EA had been "learning so much about how rivers like the Derwent work". Mr Fox went on to say that dredging had been carried out in Cockermouth, removing 8-10,000 tonnes of gravel "to re-establish the channel and the ability of the channel to take flood waters through the town".)

3. Your Jean Fulker then contacted me by telephone, and in a follow-up email that I sent on 28 May 2009, I confirmed by way of explanation that "I am interested to know whether changes in the management of the river, and in particular the change in the practice of dredging the river, contributed to the flooding that occurred in 2007."

4. I received a very informative email on 15 June 2009 which I acknowledged on 29 June 2009. However, it did not provide all the information I had requested. In my email I therefore requested:

"Although you say that since 1996 the dredging has been carried out on a reactive basis for navigational purposes only, you have not told me when the decision was made made about abandoning routine dredging. If this was also in 1996, please confirm it. If it was another date, please identify that date"; and

"The tabled data you have sent provides evidence of occasions only when the water level in the river was above 'typical low flood level'. It is not possible to determine from this data whether the change in dredging policy that you have now identified has resulted in any change in the mean water level. You have kindly informed me that you collate seasonal or periodic mean river levels into monthly and yearly figures, and I was expecting this to be provided as well as comprehensive (rather than exceptional) data for surge levels. Please provide me with this information. (I am not interested in data from sources other than Osney Lock (head water), Osney Lock (tail water) and Godstow Lock (tail water))."

5. As by then I felt I should have been provided with this information, I also asked for the matter to be reviewed.

6. On 7 July 2009you informed me that you had no information about dredging earlier than 1996, but that you had telemetry data for Osney and Godstow locks. This was supplied to me on 9 July 2009.

7. On 22 July 2009 I was given a reply to my request for a review. But it appeared to me that although the reviewer had reviewed the "timeline", she had not reviewed whether I had been provided with the information sought. I said this in my email of 23 July 2009. On analysis of the information that you did send, it was clear that this did not address the underlying issue, which was the rise in the level of the river bed. According, I asked: "Please inform me whether you have any information concerning or relating to this rise in the level of the river bed. If you have that information, please supply it."

8. On 7 August 2009 in an email that tended to disclaim responsibility for dredging, you referred to lack of evidence. I found this contradicted information sent to others which referred to the level of the river bed being reduced by a foot after the 1947 floods. In what was an apparently telling remark, it was stated that "Further deepening would require associated bank stabilisation works and would involve much greater costs in disposing of the dredged material than applied last century. As such, it does not offer an economically cost beneficial way to reduce flood risk and has major environmental impacts. It is not therefore, a preferred option." On 11 August 2009, I therefore asked for supplementary information, based on what had been referred to in correspondence with others.

9. On 19 August 2009, in a detailed reply, you said: "On occasions, the Agency did not explicitly state that it did not hold information under the EIR. However, in those situations the Agency supplied you with the best available data. I consider that the Agency has conducted an extensive search for the information you have requested and has provided all the data which it holds." I reviewed that information, but simultaneously came across information supplied to a correspondent further downstream at Bisham, which appeared, again, to contradict what you were telling me. Accordingly, on 2 September 2009 I asked you to "re-review" the information you had provided, and also to provide the following:

"Please inform me whether or not any study / studies of raw data pertaining to river sediment, such as (for instance) that carried out by Halcrow, has been undertaken for the Thames above Temple, and if so, please provide a copy / copies"; and

"For the avoidance of doubt please confirm the readings for the river bed level in table 1 of the Halcrow report sent to Mr Post are fixed by reference to a fixed datum level and that they were taken at the same locations at roughly the same time in the different sub-reaches."

10. Your reply, sent on 8 September 2009, was a refusal to provide further information, based upon your assessment that "the adverse effects of releasing this information outweigh the factors in favour of disclosing it". On 16 February 2010 I asked for a review of that decision.

11. Your reply of 28 May 2010 does not deal with the issues concerning the change in dredging policy over the past 20 years or so, the consequential (and evident) gradual rise in the level of the river bed and the resulting increase in the risk and frequency of flooding to West Oxford. Although a great deal of information has been provided, it provides no answer to the request that I have made and explained.

I shall be grateful if you would therefore carry out the requested review of the correspondence outlined above so that I may either have sent to me the information that I have requested, or else have the refusal to provide information confirmed. If you answer confirms your earlier refusal, then I shall be able to take the matter to the Information Commissioner.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Dear Environment Agency,

I refer to my email to Ms Sarah Ferretti of 1 June 2010 and I look forward to receiving the information that I have requested. May I please know when I shall have it?

Yours faithfully,

Ian Salisbury

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

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Kind regards

National Customer Contact Team

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Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

Dear Ian

Thank you for your enquiry regarding dredging the River Thames above
Oxford.

I have contacted Sarah and she said she has a response ready to send out
but would like to proof read it before she sends it. She has advised me
that you should receive a reply either today or tomorrow.

I trust this information is of use. If you have any further queries please
contact us and we will be happy to help.

Kind regards
Hannah Buswell

Customer Service Advisor
Environment Agency
National Customer Contact Centre
08708 506 506

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show quoted sections

Ferretti, Sarah, Environment Agency

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Salisbury,

Please find attached a letter which responds to your email of 1 June
2010.

Yours sincerely
Sarah Ferretti

show quoted sections

Dear Sarah Ferretti,

Thank you for your letter. At paragraph 11 you say:

"Extensive searches have been undertaken to supply you with the information requested. Where no such information has been found to exist, we have supplied you with the best available data to assist you."

Are you therefore now able to confirm under section 1(1)(a) of the Act and Paragraph 5(1) of the Environmental Information Regulations that you have no further relevant information with which to provide me?

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Ferretti, Sarah, Environment Agency

Dear Mr Salisbury,

The Agency has responded to each individual request by disclosing,
withholding or confirming that we do not hold the information concerned,
as evidenced by the history of correspondence between the Agency and
yourself. My answer to your question is to refer you to this
correspondence and confirm that the Agency is not aware of any further
information which is caught by your requests under the Environmental
Information Regulations or Freedom of Information Act, which has not
either been disclosed, withheld or confirmed as not held by the Agency.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Ferretti

Solicitor

Thames Region, Legal Services

show quoted sections

edward surridge left an annotation ()

The Bulstake Stream and oxford Millstream do not converge directly they are on differentsides of the main thames.

Additionally the waterlevel of port meadow is caused to rise higher than normal by the contricted water flow down the millstream caused by sluce gates remaining closed untill the last moment of flood because of the wrongly situated Boom and Pontoon causeing accidents to boaters by Isis lock.

sam g left an annotation ()

Thanks Ian Salisbury.

I cannot believe the due diligence and patience with which you dealt with the EA. I really bow to your tenacity. I have scanned your marathon attempts at finding out how floods are now a mega buck making industry, therefore not to be averted, to find all reasons why I will now object to the latest attempt by the gov (public consultation on charging for information) to charge us five thousand plus for participating in democracy, when in fact if we had competence instead of indifference and contempt for the taxpayer, answers would be swift and not expensive.

Thank you

Any insights into who monitors rivers and non drink, freshwaters elsewhere and collects data on emissions, toxins and pollution connected to them gratefully received......I'm still on the long trail...........................

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