Rishi has welcomed the completion of a £3.7m flood defence scheme in Stokesley.
He saw how the completed scheme has improved the protection for more than 500 homes and businesses in the town.
After speaking to Environment Agency staff who commissioned and managed the works, Rishi also welcomed the improvements to the River Leven that are the additional benefits of the scheme.
He said: “Many Stokesley residents and business will be reassured by this work which maintains and improves flood protection - saving many people from the heartache of dealing with the devastating impact flooding can have.
“The environmental improvements are a welcome additional bonus. Levenside is a beautiful part of the town and this work only enhances its attractiveness.
Work on the new defences has included the building of a new upstream flow control structure.
When water levels in the River Leven are high, the upstream structure automatically diverts flows down a flood diversion channel which runs around Stokesley.
This will also provide significantly improved fish passage and allows greater flows down the Leven into Stokesley, under normal water conditions, improving the River Leven’s health.
A new downstream flow control structure has side hung doors which close during high flows, stopping the Eller Beck flowing back up the Leven into Stokesley.
River restoration on the Levenside has been delivered in collaboration with the Tees Rivers Trust. The works here include the installation of a new fish pass and deflectors to create different flow speeds and a more naturalised river.
Jamie Fletcher, the Environment Agency’s Flood Risk Operations Manager for the North East, said: “The community of Stokesley have seen first-hand how devastating flooding can be. That’s why I’m so pleased to see the completion of these vital defences ahead of winter.
Ben Lamb, CEO at the Tees Rivers Trust said his organisation had talked with Stokesley residents and interest groups about improving the river through the town on many occasions.
He said: “It has been a great opportunity to give the river some TLC and make some improvements to flow, habitat and fish passage.
He added: “We had an enormous amount of help from volunteers who tirelessly shifted over 50 tons of gravel into the new meander area in town.
“The river is a great asset for the town, and we are getting regular reports of wildlife in and around the river since we completed the work.