News: Katwijk, a new take on water… and parking

Article by Staff
Vulnerable houses just behind the dunes in Katwijk (Olga Khomitsevich)

Vulnerable houses just behind the dunes in Katwijk (Olga Khomitsevich)

The last time that the low lying Netherlands suffered a major flood was in 1953. It is still referred to as ‘The Disaster’ (De Ramp) in Holland. On the night of January 31st a huge storm combined with a spring tide raised the pounding ocean waves 18 feet above their normal average. Dikes in Zeeland, southern South Holland and western North Brabant could not withstand the onslaught of the raging sea and succumbed. More than 1800 people died as a result of the ensuing floods. The Delta Works, a huge national project to ensure future safety was started. During the construction project dams, sluices, locks, dikes, levees, and storm surge barriers were built or strengthened.

Officially the project was declared complete in 1997. But a minor improvement project to a dike far from the focal area in the southwest, which was not completed until August 24, 2010, meant that it took almost 58 years after the disaster for the construction project to be truly completed. In those 58 years new insights, especially related to climate change and the projected rise in the sea level have resulted in the identification of 10 new ‘weak spots’ in the protection against the sea.

Along much of the coast of the provinces of North and South Holland the land is not protected by dikes, but by sand dunes, a natural coastal barrier. One of the areas at risk is the small seaside resort and fishing town of Katwijk, about 15 miles north of The Hague. The town has a secondary barrier behind the dunes, but 3000 people live between the two and because the dunes are deemed to be too weak to withstand the worst case scenarios those 3000 people are in particular danger. One way of dealing with this issue would be to effectively throw a whole pile of extra sand at the dunes and make them both higher and wider. But the engineers have come up with a different solution, one that was successfully implemented in the nearby village of Noordwijk. The plan is to build a dike inside the dunes. By doing that the natural sand dune barrier will become stronger and the dunes will require less heightening and widening, thereby minimizing the impact on the surrounding area.

Holland would not be Holland if there wasn’t another innovative twist. The municipality of Katwijk wants to build a parkade inside the dike. Engineering studies have proved the concept to be entirely feasible. And thus the next improvement in the struggle against the sea will have a dual purpose. It will help Holland deal with an abundance of water on one side of the barrier and an abundance of vehicles on the other.

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Posted by on Sep 16 2011. Filed under Current Affairs, Society. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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