ABOUT 80,000 cubic metres of silt has been removed from two Somerset rivers as part of a huge dredging project to help relieve flooding.

The Environment Agency (EA) project has involved a fleet of tractors and trailers, many driven by local farmers, carrying material away from the rivers Parrett and Tone.

The silt will be used for spreading on agricultural land or for flood bank strengthening.

The project, being completed in partnership with the Land and Water Services, began in March and is now about 60% complete.

Dredging has been carried out on a 4km stretch of the Parrett between Burrowbridge and Andersea, and on the Tone between Burrowbridge and Curload.

The EA says it is working carefully after discovering water voles on the Tone on a section where it is set to start dredging shortly.

EA spokesman Graham Quarrier said: “We have worked closely with Natural England to obtain an appropriate licence. We will be trapping and relocating the voles over the next week. This will ensure the completion date is not delayed and we don’t harm a protected species.”

The dredging scheme is set to be completed by the end of October.

Other work includes improvements to Northmoor pumping station, sluices, gates and coastal flood defences damaged in the floods.