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Saltmarsh restoration site visit - Mersey Gateway Project

22 November 2016, Widnes

Ecologists and environmental professionals from the North West Section of CIEEM, along with students from the MSc Ecology and Environmental Management at Liverpool Hope University (a course accredited by CIEEM) visited the Mersey Gateway Project.

The visit was facilitated by Victoria Pollard, Environmental Manager for Merseylink Civil Contractors Joint Venture the organisation responsible for design and build of the project. Leaders for the visit included Paul Oldfield, Environment Manager for the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board, AECOM ecologists Dr Mark Hampton and Dr Damian Smith, and the Aquatic Ecologist Joana Capela. AECOM is a multinational engineering firm that provides design, consulting, construction, and management services.

The Mersey Gateway Project will construct a new six lane toll cable-stayed bridge over the river Mersey between the towns of Runcorn and Widnes, along with associated road works either side of the river to support the increased traffic expected to utilise the new river crossing. The bridge is one part of a thirty year £1.86 billion project including the cost of land, construction, operation, maintenance and finance. The new crossing will be open in autumn 2017, but it is already starting to bring major environmental benefits to the local area.  The visit focussed on the impact of the construction of bridge piers on the saltmarsh habitat of the Upper Mersey Estuary, and the saltmarsh restoration plan as a response to this impact.

The long term ecological management and monitoring of the Bridge will be carried out by a new charitable trust, the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust. This is a unique new charity created to promote the conservation, protection and improvement of the environment across a 1600 hectare area of the Upper Mersey Estuary running from the new bridge up river to Warrington. The Trust, which will also manage a new 28.5 hectare nature reserve alongside the bridge, is unique for a major construction project in the UK.

The visit was a fantastic opportunity for the MSc students to network with ecology and environmental professionals, and to gain an insight in to how the environmental impacts of a major construction project are mitigated. The delegates were impressed by the long term benefits of this project, not only in terms of environmental gain but for the regional economy.

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