THE partially-completed £86million flood alleviation project in Moray has been hailed a huge success in the aftermath of Hurricane Bertha, saving hundreds of homes and businesses from experiencing devastating water damage.
Elgin and Forres has suffered some of the worst flooding seen in the country in recent years.
Analysis of flow volumes in the rivers Lossie and Findhorn has now confirmed that, but for the defences already in place, both towns would have suffered damage at least as severe as 1997, 2002 and 2009.
In the event, only a very small number of properties in Elgin and Forres were affected by floodwater from either river.
Most damage that occurred was as a result of the sheer volume of rainwater which fell during Sunday night and Monday morning when drainage systems were unable to cope.
Arrangements were made to evacuate around 200 households in Elgin – mainly in the South Lesmurdie and Kingsmills areas – as the River Lossie rose to dangerously high levels on Monday. However, most families returned to their homes later.
Moray Council leader Allan Wright said: “The rain gauge at Torwinny on the upper reaches of the River Lossie recorded much more intense rainfall in a much shorter period of time than both November 2002 and September 2009 when Elgin suffered severe flooding and damage to property.
“In terms of peak water flow and water level in the River Lossie as it passes through Elgin, Monday’s event was of a similar magnitude to September 2009 and yet not a single property within the compass of the flood scheme was affected, which is testament to the effectiveness of the work that has been carried out, even though the scheme is still only partially complete.”
Councillor Wright added: “I have the greatest sympathy for those households that did suffer flooding as a result of conditions on Monday but the flood schemes undoubtedly averted a full-scale catastrophe.
“Since 1997 successive floods in Moray have caused damage costing many tens of millions of pounds and that quite staggering figure would have risen even further this week without the partially completed flood schemes in Elgin and Forres.”
A spokesman for cashmere specialists Johnstons of Elgin, whose production facility and shop have been affected by flooding in the past, said: “We are extremely pleased to see that the parts of the flood alleviation scheme which are already completed helped to alleviate a potential flood this week.
“We are particularly happy to see that homes at risk in our community, including those of many of our team, managed to escape what could have been a devastating event.
“We were able to maintain production throughout the day and our retail operations were able to resume trading as normal after losing only one day. We look forward to the completion of the flood alleviation scheme and the increased peace of mind it will bring to the whole community.”
Management at Glen Moray Distillery on the western outskirts of Elgin said they were certain the site would have flooded and production would have been disrupted but for the defences put in place as part of the flood scheme.
“We were very happy with the outcome and the way the flood defences worked,” said distillery manager Graham Coull.
“Looking at the water level, I’m more than certain that we would have been flooded. Most of the warehouses would have been affected and we would have lost production as well, but as it was we managed to continue production without disruption.”