THE Environment Agency has apologised after a broken sluice gate led to the cancellation of a charity dragon boat race.
Emsworth Mill Pond was drained more than a week ago over fears of flash flooding at the beginning of last week.
Although floods never materialised the mill pond was not refilled by Sunday despite pleas from the dragon boat race organisers.
It has now emerged that one of the sluice gates – which lets water in and out – was broken and that, coupled with lower than normal seasonal tides, meant the race had to be cancelled.
It was expected to raise thousands of pounds for a number of charities and was the second time this year it has been cancelled.
Emsworth councillor Brendan Gibb-Gray, who is also chairman of the Emsworth Business Association which organised the event, said the empty Mill Pond is affecting the town’s economy.
‘A walk round it is one of the best scenes in the borough,’ said Cllr Gibb-Gray.
‘But when it’s empty all visitors get to look at is a load of mud.
‘There doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency about refilling it.
‘The Environment Agency doesn’t seem to realise it affects our economy if it’s not filled.’
The Environment Agency says the sluice gate is now fixed.
Area manager James Humphrys said: ‘It’s a great shame that the dragon boat race couldn’t take place this weekend due to lower water levels on the Emsworth Mill Pond.
‘The water level in the pond is controlled by a tidal sluice for flood risk purposes. The level was dropped the previous weekend to reduce the risk of flooding to properties, in preparation for predicted thunderstorms.
‘We would usually expect levels to rise again over the next few high tides or due to rainfall.
‘Unfortunately, lower seasonal tides, combined with a fault on the automated sluice, meant that the level of the Mill Pond did not rise back to the level required for the boat race.
‘We have now fixed the fault and levels will rise over the next few days.
‘We have been in close contact with the local community representative during the last week and with the race organisers over the weekend. I want to apologise for the inconvenience caused by this faulty sluice.
‘We are conducting a review of this incident. We will continue to work together with the local flood forum and race organisers to ensure we balance protection of the Emsworth community from flood risk and support the use of the Mill Pond for recreational use.’