The Storm Surge Barrier.
Two weeks after the flooding of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina, an important delegation from the State of Louisiana visited the Storm Surge Barrier in the Eastern Scheldt. As the most important and unique part of the Dutch Delta Works, built to protect the low lying Netherlands from another disastrous flood, the Barrier has been the show piece of the Province of Zeeland for more than 25 years. It is, so to speak, in our back yard.
The person who took the delegation from Louisiana on a guided tour of the Barrier was not one of our team, but our Crown Prince Willem-Alexander. A Royal expert on water management, he was the very man for the job. On most other occasions, we, the Zeeland guides, are ready to guide national and international groups of visitors through the Barrier. We tell the story which brings this exceptional project to life. The story of the flood disaster of 1953, the cause and the consequences, the compromises, the solutions. The number of American visitors we have taken on a tour of the Barrier must run into the thousands. Again and again I witness the admiration and awe it inspires in our foreign visitors, admiration for our engineers, the sheer size of the Barrier, the enormity of the project and the foresight of a small country to protect itself against the threatening water. Understandably, having grown up with the Delta Project, the Dutch almost take it for granted. We live with the ever present threat from the water, we remember the terrible floods that tried to get hold of our country, to get hold of us.
And so, as part of a 30 year construction known as the Delta Project, we built this, a hydraulical engineering project recognized as one of the ‘MegaStructures’ in the world and featured on Discovery Channel’s “Extreme Engineering”. We built it to the best of our ability, with dedication and perseverance, with knowledge gained from a history of struggle and defense. It is the essence of the awe and respect I detect in the reaction of all these people who visit the Storm Surge Barrier. It makes it my favorite destination, to be able to explain the technology in a way that every man and woman can understand: what it is, why it is and how it works. And answer their every question. I hope they keep coming.