FARMERS on Pevensey Marshes say newborn lambs have been put in danger after their water supplies were drained.
Livestock on parts of Pevensey Levels have been robbed of their usual water as work was carried out by the Environment Agency on Pevensey Haven’s lock gates.
Water levels in ditches which feed off the river dropped by four feet last week, posing a risk for sheep and cattle which drink from them.
Lock gates control the flow of water to the network of ditches on Pevensey Levels.
A spokesman for Lions Farms, which keeps 300 ewes and 100 cattle on its 250 acres on the marshland, said animals could not reach the water in some fields because the banks were too steep.
Cattle would not even attempt to negotiate the sheer slope and lambs could lose their footing while trying to drink.
The Lions spokesman said, “Levels continue to be dangerously low, and we suspect a lock gate must have been left open.”
Environment Agency technical specialist Peter Amies said water levels had been returned to within eight inches of their previous depth.
“We take any reports of dropping water levels seriously. Unfortunately these gates have been leaking for a few years and we had therefore programmed their replacement,” said Mr Amies. He added disruption to land owners was inevitable but it would lead to more stable water levels.
Farmers from the Lions noticed water draining out of the system on Thursday and Friday last week and immediately complained to the Environment Agency, which is responsible for the water levels as part Pevensey Levels’ sea defences. Livestock have been herded to an unaffected area and have been provided with troughs of water.
The spokesman for the Lions said, “We have ongoing concerns about water levels in general, particularly about the agency’s failure to control flooding last winter. This resulted in loss of livestock at considerable cost.”
Mr Amies said, “Regarding the concerns about winter flooding, we are setting up a meeting between ourselves, Natural England, the landowner’s legal representatives and Wealden District Council to discuss a way forward.”