Participants of the CEDA Forum 2013 technical visit to the Sand Engine, an innovative approach to coastal protection in the Province of North Holland, the Netherlands were treated with a spectacular view of this new and unique stretch of coast from the top of the NH Atlanta Hotel – a one-off opportunity except for those closely related to the project. And all this in bright sunshine – a rare gift on the Dutch coast in November.
Going to the roof was only one part of the day’s programme which started by a warm welcome by Gerard van Raalte, Boskalis.
He explained briefly the philosophy underlying the “Building with Nature” Programme of which the Sand Engine is one element. He emphasized the benefits of the shift in thinking from “re-active” to “pro-active” i.e. the importance of identifying possible new opportunities for nature when designing and implementing water-based infrastructure projects instead of only focusing on the mitigation of possible negative impacts. Following Mr van Raalte three young scientists gave inspiring presentations about their research on the Sand Engine.
First Jaap van Tiel de Vries, PhD, Boskalis (ex-Deltares) gave an introduction to the Sand Engine. He highlighted the Sand Engine multi-functionality and explained how the final design seeks to achieve those. He gave an overview of the ongoing monitoring and research programmes and the type of questions the scientists seek to answer e.g. Does the Sand Engine meet its design objectives? Are people using it for recreation? Does it increase biodiversity? What landscape is developing? How does hydrology influence dune development?
The next speaker, Matthieu de Schipper, PhD student at the Delft University of Technology & Shore Monitoring & Research, told about his research on how this huge quantity of sand behaves in time and how it compares with the predictions.
Monitoring results from the first 18 months after completion show a dynamic system characterised by complex processes such as seaside erosion and northern and southern accretion with spit and channel formation near the lagoon. The influence of waves, currents and wind on these processes are carefully monitored and tracked in bimonthly measurements.
Finally, in his presentation Simeon Moons, PhD student at Marine Ecology at NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research gave an insight into his research about the ecological consequences and opportunities of the Sand Engine, with a focus on marine ecology.
He said that the first observations – as expected- show the formation of heterogeneous environments, small “pockets”, offering opportunities for a range of plants and animals.
As examples he mentioned the development of young dunes and the abundance of shellfish in the lagoon. These in turn increase the biodiversity and nature value of this stretch of the coast.
Press Release, November 13, 2013