Thursday, May 26, 2011

Modern Marvels

Today was the last day of our weeklong tour of the Netherlands put together by the Florida Earth Foundation.  It was also (in my opinion) the best day.  It isn't that Kinderdijk, Futureland, or Maeslantkering weren't great (they were!)...

Double windmill

The future Futureland! (well, Massvlakte 2)

Everyone under one arm of the Maeslantkering

...I just found today's trip to Zeeland to be the most interactive - in terms of Dutch history, mentality, and technology.

Today we visited the Flood Disaster Museum (watersnood Museum) and the Oosterschelde storm surge barrier (or Oosterscheldekering). Both are located in Zeeland, in southern Holland.

The storm surge barrier is part of the Delta works project that was implemented after the great flood of 1953. The barrier crosses the eastern Schelde River. It stretches about 9 kilometers and consists of 62 steel doors that open to allow movement of the tides, but close if a storm surge is iminent. Basically, it's huge.

The main goal of the Delta works was to close off the Netherlands from the sea in order to ensure another great flood would never happen. Unfortunately, completely blocking the North Sea has negative effects on the coastal and marine environment. Although not perfect, the storm surge barrier took this issue into account and implemented the system of steel doors to allow water to flow through the barrier. The area available for flow is now only 20% of what it naturally was before construction of the barrier, and as a result, the water flows faster through the gates.

Throughout the week I learned about the change in Dutch thought about flooding defense. The many dikes seen throughout the country represent the original thinking of keeping water out at any cost; flood defense was about closing the country off from the sea, despite the sea being an important part of life and the economy. The Maeslantkering shows how the Dutch realize the importance of protecting the economy. Closing the Maeslantkering means loss of shipping revenue into the port of Rotterdam, and thus it is a moveable structure to allow the free flow of ships when not in use. The open aspect of the Oosterscheldeing, however, is based on an environmental concern. The estuary is a mix of salt and fresh water. Closing the estuary would prevent the mixing from occuring. With the open design, nearby shellfish farms still thrive.  These projects show the slow, but sure change in the Dutch mentality.
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I have greatly enjoyed visiting the many sites in the Netherlands over the past week, and I thank the Florida Earth Foundation (with Stan Bronson) and the IHE's hydroinformatics program for the effort they put into this experience to make it truly memorable.


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