The Delta Works (
The aim of the dams, sluices, and storm surge barriers was to shorten the Dutch coastline, thus reducing the number of dikes that had to be raised. Along with the
Due to indecision and the
Unlike the Zuiderzee Works, the Delta Plan's purpose is largely defensive and not for
An important part of this project was fundamental research to come up with long term solutions, protecting the Netherlands against future floods. Instead of analysing past floods and building protection sufficient to deal with those, the Delta Works commission pioneered a conceptual framework to use as norm for investment in flood defences.
The framework is called the 'Delta norm'; it includes the following principles:
The most important "dike ring area" is the South Holland coast region. It is home to four million people, most of whom live below normal sea level. The loss of human life in a catastrophic flood here can be very large because there is typically little warning time with North Sea storms. Comprehensive evacuation is not a realistic option for the Holland coastal region.
The commission initially set the acceptable risk for complete failure of every "dike ring" in the country at 1 in 125,000 years. But, it found that the cost of building to this level of protection could not be supported. It set "acceptable" risks by region as follows:
River flooding causes less damage than salt water flooding, which causes long-term damage to agricultural lands. Areas at risk from river flooding were assigned a higher acceptable risk. River flooding also has a longer warning time, producing a lower estimated death toll per event.
These acceptable risks were enshrined in the Delta Law (Dutch: Deltawet). This required the government to keep risks of catastrophic flooding within these limits and to upgrade defences should new insights into risks require this. The limits have also been incorporated into the new Water Law (Waterwet), effective from 22 December 2009.
The Delta Project (of which the Delta Works are a part) has been designed with these guidelines in mind. All other primary defences have been upgraded to meet the norm. New data elevating the risk assessment on expected sea level rise due to global warming has identified ten 'weak points.' These have been upgraded to meet future demands. The latest upgrades are made under the High Water Protection Program.
During the execution of the works, changes were made in response to public pressure. In the Nieuwe Waterweg, the heightening and the associated widening of the dikes proved very difficult because of public opposition to the planned destruction of important historic buildings to achieve this. The plan was changed to the construction of a storm surge barrier (the
The Delta Plan originally intended to create a large freshwater lake, the Zeeuwse Meer (Zeeland Lake). This would have caused major environmental destruction in Oosterschelde, with the total loss of the saltwater ecosystem and, consequently, the harvesting of oysters. Environmentalists and fishermen combined their efforts to prevent the closure; they persuaded parliament to amend the original plan. Instead of completely damming the estuary, the government agreed to build a storm surge barrier. This essentially is a long collection of very large valves that can be closed against storm surges.
The storm surge barrier closes only when the sea-level is expected to rise 3 metres above mean sea level. Under normal conditions, the estuary's mouth is open, and salt water flows in and out with the tide. As a result of the change, the weak dikes along the Oosterschelde needed to be strengthened. Over 200 km of the dike needed new revetments. The connections between the Eastern Scheldt and the neighboring
In an attempt to restore and preserve the natural system surrounded by the dykes and storm-surge barrier, the concept 'building with nature' was introduced in revised Delta Program updates after 2008. The new integrated water management plan not only takes into account protection against flooding, but also covers water quality, leisure industry, economic activities, shipping, environment and nature. Whenever possible, existing engineering constructions would be replaced by more 'nature friendly' options in an attempt to restore natural estuary and tides, while still protecting against flooding. In addition, building components of the reinforcements are designed in a way that they support formation of entire ecosystems. As part of the revision, the