A SERIES of dredging tests have been carried out on the Teifi estuary over the last week – and the signs are that there may at last be a long term solution to keeping boating channels open on the river.

"People have been talking for many years about finding a way to keep the channels navigable at a price we might be able to afford and it looks as if we may be getting somewhere with this," said Jim Marsden, health and safety and environmental officer at Afon Teifi Fairways.

A jet-pump system has been tested out at Patch over the last week. Sand and silt is taken up from the channel and pumped away onto sand banks.

"It looks as if we would be able to move up to about 60 tons an hour, which is not bad for a prototype experiment," said Mr Marsden.

"Now we have proved the system can work the next step will be to start seeking all the necessary permissions from all the authorities and to start looking at funding our own equipment," he added.

Current estimates suggest that a machine could be set up for less than £10,000.

Navigation officer Paul Oakley said: "This looks as if it will be a very good way to keep the channels navigable and to do it at a reasonable cost. There will be many benefits to all the people who use the river. We have been trying for a few years to find a way to do this and it looks as if we may at last be getting somewhere."

Geologist Chris Evans, who has undertaken a number of surveys of the Teifi, said: "This equipment could work very well in a small area. It has been worth experimenting to see what can be done within the economic range of the Fairways committee. It remains to be seen if this machinery can cope with bigger areas, but for small sections it seems to be a good start."