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Sections of 22 streams to undergo eco-restoration alongside flood prevention

NIS 43 million joint Environmental Protection and Agriculture Ministry deal will fund trash removal, creation of trails and recreational facilities, community involvement

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Youth swimming in a quiet part of the Sa'ar river, Golan Heights, April 14, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
Youth swimming in a quiet part of the Sa'ar river, Golan Heights, April 14, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

Sections of more than 20 streams will be restored in the coming years thanks to a joint Environmental Protection Ministry and Agriculture Ministry agreement to add ecological rehabilitation to a program for stream overflow-related flood defense.

NIS 43 million ($12.4 million) will be spent on the restoration, out of a total project budget of NIS 108 million ($31 million).

A joint professional team reviewed and ranked 61 proposals from authorities responsible for managing drainage and streams, choosing 22 throughout the country, according to an Environmental Protection Ministry statement released Sunday.

The work will include removing hazards such as trash, creating trails and recreation facilities, and involving local communities in the work and the long-term protection of nearby stretches of streams.

More than a third of the rehabilitation sum, amounting to around NIS 16 million ($4.6 million), will be focused on streams in Arab communities, among them the Sa’ar Stream, which skirts the Druze town of Mas’ade on the Golan Heights, and the Grar Stream, which flows through the southern Israeli Bedouin city of Rahat.

Works will also be carried out on sections of the following waterways — many of which only flow during the winter and early spring — and immediate surrounding areas:

Northern Israel: Slopes of the Jordan River near to the Sea of Galilee; the Iron Stream near Kibbutz Ein Shemer; the Kishon River; the East Jordan Canal, built in the 1950s to help drain the Hula marshes; the Sa’adia Stream in Haifa (where a pumping facility will be built to stop pollution) and the Gdora Stream in nearby Kiryat Bialik; the Gush Halav Stream, up to where it meets the Dishon Stream; planning of a boardwalk along the Dalia Stream near Fureidis; tributaries of the Tzippori River; the Rimonim Stream-Wadi um Humeid near to Bir al-Maksur; and the Hilazon Stream between Sha’ab and the Kishon springs.

Central Israel: The Shiloh Stream in the industrial area of Petah Tikva; the Hadera Stream from Route 2 to the Tzahal Bridge, where work will include flood prevention for the city of Hadera; a 1.5 kilometer (just under a mile) stretch of the Yarkon River, including the release of water from the Pircha spring; the Haviva Stream; and the Kana Stream.

A car that was swept away in floods at the Dalia Stream in northern Israel on January 5, 2020, and found January 6 next to the driver’s body. (Israel Police)

Southern Israel: the Kama Stream to Rahat’s north.

“The new plan we approved will lead to the restoration of streams and flood prevention through nature-based solutions and the preservation of our natural systems,” said Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg.

Agriculture Minister Oded Forer added that the joint plan represented a “uniform and comprehensive response” that would enable the drainage and stream authorities to boost the country’s resilience in the face of climate change.

The Agriculture Ministry recently signed an agreement with the Finance Ministry and the Israel Lands Authority to allocate an additional NIS 1.2 billion ($345 million) for 13 large drainage infrastructure projects.

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