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Redesigning our coast to hold back a hurricane
(Page 2 of 3)
Henk Ovink, the director-general of national spatial planning and water affairs in the Netherlands, is currently advising the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on how to rebuild the coast to better withstand a hurricane.

The Dutch are considered the world’s leading experts in holding back the sea. They have been at it for a thousand years. Over the past four decades, though, the Dutch have committed, like no other people on the planet, to employing cutting-edge water-control technologies to keep the ocean back. Thirty percent of the Netherlands lies below sea level, and 60 percent of the nation is in a flood zone.

With the world steadily warming, and melting land-based glacial ice in Greenland and Antarctica causing the seas to rise, the Netherlands must be proactive in stopping the ocean in order to survive. The nation constructs its coastal fortifications to the highest standard –– capable of withstanding a 1-in-10,000-year storm. By comparison, our Northeast was incapable of holding back Sandy, considered a once-in-a-century storm.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which collects data from nearly 1,000 of the world’s leading climatologists from 39 countries, predicts that oceans could rise three feet or more within a century because of global warming. Imagine Sandy’s destructive power if the 10-foot surge that pummeled the South Shore were a third higher.

This summer, as part of the Rebuild by Design program, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force put out a request for proposals for model projects that would reinforce our coastline and could be duplicated on a mass scale. The redesign program is funded through a public-private partnership between the federal government and philanthropies such as the Rockefeller Foundation.

Nearly 150 design teams, comprising engineers, architects, landscape architects and climate scientists, submitted proposals. From there, 10 teams were selected to present their plans, which are due on Oct. 28. From there, projects will be chosen for implementation, with construction work to begin next April.


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Finally we have engaged the experts! There was an article in the New Yorker magazine right after Sandy describing how the Dutch have learned to tame the water and I was hoping that the US will follow the process. Good to hear that they brought Henk Ovink to spearhead this important task. Those hard-working taxpayers who complain as to why their money should be used to sponsor such programs-quit whining and realize that the reason people have a great standard of living and are generally happy in the countries such as Nederlands, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark is precisely because they have strong social support systems, trust in the government and an understanding that having most of the country live comfortably is better than to have 1% living excessively.

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