This week we joined a team of water managers for the State of Florida to visit various sites that represent the infrastructure necessary to keep Holland dry. The team consisted of environmental professionals representing the South Florida Water Management District, US Army Corps of Engineers, private law firms and consulting firms, and the Florida Earth Foundation. The goal of the Florida-Holland connection is to create a unique collaboration between the State of Florida and the Netherlands that will identify and prioritize climate-driven water challenges that are common to both areas and develop solutions together. The program was initiated in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
The focus of our site visits over the last couple days involved “The Delta Works”, which are a number of constructions that were built between 1950 and 1997 in the southwest of the Netherlands to protect the land from the sea. The works consist of dams, sluices, locks,
dikes, and storm surge barriers. Although floods have reoccurred in the Netherlands since the earliest record of 838 AD and approximately every 50 to 100 years thereafter, the construction of the Delta Works was PRIMARILY motivated by the flood of 1953. A horrendous storm caused the North Sea to surge over 15 feet above sea level and there were nearly 2,000 victims in Holland. The flood occurred in the night and thus no warning was given. The Delta Works project is one of the most extensive engineering projects in the world with over 10,250 miles of dikes and 300 structures.
The first structure we visited was the Maeslantkering in Rotterdam – the largest moving structure on earth. After six years of construction, 450 million euros and using the largest ball joint ever built (10m in diameter), the storm surge barrier was completed in 1997. It is basically a gate located in the main waterway of the port that opens and closes based on the height of the North Sea. It closes when the sea is predicted to rise 3 meters above sea level, which is predicted to occur about every 10 years. The structure was massive and it really is difficult to explain or capture in a picture.