Eastern Scheldt & The Delta Works:
Most of Zeeland is at or under sea level. In 1953 the dikes were in poor conditions and to low. Thanks to the storm surge barrier, this risk has now been reduced to less than once in 4000 years. Take the opportunity to visit this construction inside and outside. You will be surrounded by concrete with 200 years guarantee. Open all year.
Zeeland changed drastically after flood in 1953. After the North Sea floods of 1953, the Dutch authorities decided to construct more effective coastal defences in the Zeeland Delta. These coastal defences are known as the Delta Works and comprise a series of dams. Estuaries were blocked off, banks were raised and new roads were constructed. Even the Eastern Scheldt underwent a drastic transformation. The Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier (Oosterscheldekering), the Zeeland bridge (Zeelandbrug) and the Oesterdam are examples of this. But the Oosterschelde was not shut off. By building the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier and installing sluice-gate-type doors, the estuary still remained a tidal area. Birds could still feed on the silt plates. And even the mussel and oyster farmers could continue their work.
For the past 2000 years, the inhabitants of the Netherlands have often had to cope with flood disasters.: The Elizabeth floods from 1404 until 1421; St Felixflood in 1530; All Saints Flood in 1570; Christmas Flood in 1717; Zuider Zee Flood in 1916.
During the Second World War, Zeeland suffered a tremendous amount of damage. Dikes were bombed and land was flooded in an attempt to chase away the Germans. Repairs to the landscape started in March 1945 and in February 1946 all the gaps were filled in. These unforeseen repairs also helped distract the attention away from raising the dikes.
The last flood was in 1953. Earlier floods were more dramatic. But the consequences of the flood were huge. In South-Holland, dikes were damaged over a distance of 91 kilometre. Thousands of people and animals died as a direct or in-direct consequence of the flood, many houses and farms were destroyed and the contamination by the salty water meant that the once fertile soil was unusable for many years.
The condition of the dikes needed to be improved: plans for large restoration work were made: The Delta Works.
According to the original plans, the Eastern Schelde would be closed, just like the other river mouths. But instead of building a closed dam, an open barrier was be built, containing a number of sluices (45 m steel doors) that would only be closed during heavenly storms and so the unique salt water environment of the Eastern Schelde would cease to exist and the favourable fishery conditions would be maintained.
Sixty-two openings, each forty metres wide, were installed to allow as much salt water through as possible. It was supposed to maintain the tidal movement. The Eastern Schelde storm surge barrier turned out to be one of the biggest structures of the world. On October 4th, 1986, the Dutch Queen Beatrix officially opened the Eastern Schelde storm surge barrier.
Apart from the many dams and barriers built during the deltaproject, there were some other particularly interesting projects in this region. These include the longest bridge in the Netherland (and Europe in its time) : The Zeelandbridge, with a length of 5 kilometres, crossing the Oosterschelde.
And The Westerschelde Tunnel", the longest tunnel in the Netherlands, )with a length of 6.6 km and with its deepest point about sixty metres below sea level) connecting the region of "Zeelands Flanders" to the rest of Zeeland and the mainland.
At deltawerken.com. , you will get a complete picture of the enormous scale of the delta works.