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By James Restall & Joanna Harrall
Freshers’ looking to start rowing this year have had their hopes sunk by construction works on the Isis.
The river’s safety level has been “red flag” for all but two days this term due to the building of a fish ladder on the Iffley weir. The works have forced more water into the Isis causing a faster stream than is safe for crews.
Ian Maconnachie, the Rowing Sabbatical Officer for Oxford University Sport, told The Oxford Student: “Currently, the flag is adversely affected by the construction, as more water needs to pass through Iffley lock than normal.
“Although we can’t really quantify this extra amount, we can say that the flag has become more sensitive to rain. The rainfall hasn’t been too high, but the extra sensitivity means that the lockkeepers have to react.”
College captains fear that the prolonged closure of the river will have left them with fewer recruits when the river re-opens.
Kate Shore, the Women’s Captain at Lincoln, said: “The extensive red flag has been extremely annoying, and it is frustrating that the building work on the weir couldn’t have been completed in the summer”.
Other captains expressed their irritation. Ben Trigg, St Catz Men’s President, said: “Michaelmas is an important time for College boat clubs who need to get novices up to speed in time for bumps racing. Novices are a key part of every boat club as they are the next generation in the making.”
Katherine Pears, St Catz Women’s Lower Boats Captain, added: “How are we supposed to inspire the next generation of rowers when they have yet to even get in a boat?”
Tom Sherwood, a spokesperson for the Environmental Agency, apologized for the inconvenience caused. He said that the lockkeepers have “had to play around with some the weirs” to provide a safe environment for the construction team, causing “a bit more flow going down the main river system.”
He added: “We carry out works all year round. It’s unfortunate that it’s happening now but we try to please all river users. You’ll just have to bear with us – weather permitting we’re hoping to get the work affecting the Isis finished sometime next week.”
OURCs expects conditions to improve in the next few days.