For centuries, tourists have flocked to the Italian city of Venice for its fragile beauty and water features. In the last hundred years, however, those elements have become increasingly threatened by rising waters attributable to climate change. After the city was slammed with a flash flood this November, with heights in some areas exceeding six feet, the drive to see the City of Bridges saved from a watery future has been strongly felt the whole world over. Considering the inundation the city faced, questions have been raised over the status and suitability of MOSE, the 6 billion euro ($6.6 billion) flood barrier project that has been under construction since 2003. MOSE, an Italian acronym for Experimental Electromechanical Module (as well as a reference to Moses, who parted the Red Sea), was originally scheduled to take eight years to complete but was halted in 2014 when taxpayer money was illegally funneled away from the project and the mayor of Venice was arrested on corruption charges. “The delays are an all-Italian shame, and we urgently need a solution,” said Alessandro Morelli, the head of a parliamentary transportation committee. The main elements of the project already in place are the 78 enormous underwater gates placed between the Adriatic Sea and the Venetian lagoon that would automatically rise during high tide to redirect water away from the city. First prototyped in the 1980s, MOSE is only engineered to temper sea rise levels predicted decades ago, rendering the project already obsolete within the near future even if it were complete. Scientists estimated that if MOSE had been completed in time, however, it would have mitigated a significant amount of damage during the most recent floods. Luigi D’Alpaos, a professor at the University of Padova, has stated that the project “is obsolete and philosophically wrong, conceptually wrong. MOSE might work tranquilly and without issues for 10 to 20 years. But then problems will arise, and it will be necessary to take other actions.” Though MOSE was designed as a compromise between modest sea-level rise projections and aesthetic discretion, UNESCO has concluded that a scaled-up version of the project would need to be implemented in order to protect the city from excessive flooding. D’Alpaos and other members of the local preservation community have offered longer-term solutions, one of which includes raising the terrain of the city via an injection of seawater underneath the bedrock. No matter what, the way the debates over the solution for Venice unfolds, whether MOSE is completed or scrapped in favor of any number of alternatives, will undoubtedly become a bellwether for other areas around the world affected by rising sea levels.
Posts tagged with "flood protection":
New York City is getting serious about future superstorms with $100 million to fund floodwater mitigation
On August 27th, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYC Office of Resilience & Recovery announced plans to spend $100 million to fortify lower Manhattan against future superstorms. The latest proposal calls for green spaces, levees, and floodwalls to protect the area from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street, and around the northern tip of Battery Park City. https://vimeo.com/117303273 This is on top of $15 million pledged in March 2015 for flood prevention in the area. To further capitalize the project, the city is leveraging its $100 million dollar investment as it enters the HUD National Disaster Resilience Competition in the hopes of gaining up to $500 million to finance flood protection in the target area. All current storm and floodwater mitigation efforts are a part of OneNYC, the city’s $20 billion global warming resiliency plan. Lower Manhattan is the target area because of its vulnerability to flooding during superstorms. The objective is to combine flood protection with accessible parkland for the affected neighborhoods. Of special concern is the storm readiness of NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) complexes, including the Alfred E. Smith Houses on St. James Place, which were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Initially, a submission from the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) branded dually as the BIG U or the Dry Line, was selected as one of six winning projects for 2013's Rebuild by Design competition. Sponsored by HUD, the Municipal Art Society, the Van Alen Institute, and other regional stakeholders, Rebuild by Design asked firms to envision how New York City and the region could protect itself against extreme weather. In the proposal, BIG U covered a more extensive area—from West 54th Street, to Battery Park, and up to East 40th Street—and envisioned more intensive modifications to the built environment. Rebuild by Design initially awarded $335 million to the project. The adapted plan draws on BIG U's guiding principle of small but powerful interventions that fit the scale of the neighborhood and activates public space, but the scale of the project will be reduced to meet the city's budget. Heather Fluit, from HUD Public Affairs, told AN that she couldn't comment on whether BIG's design will remain in any future project. "We've closed the book on that competition," she said. The final plan will be determined by the size of the grant received from HUD. The Office of Recovery & Resiliency is preparing a round-two proposal for the Disaster Resilience Competition. HUD is expected to share grant winners and funds allocated to each of the chosen submissions by January 2016.
After a close shave with nature 20 years ago, the Netherlands has sought to reinvent defensive flood prevention. "Room for the Waal" is an anti-flood program in Nijmegen, a city which spans the River Waal, Europe’s busiest waterway, where a sharp turn forms a bottleneck as it nears the city. In 1995, heavy rains in upstream France and Germany caused an upsurge in water levels in Nijmegen that threatened to breach the dikes, warranting the evacuation of the city’s 170,000 residents, as well as cattle. Despite a crisis averted, the city is undertaking a flood resilience initiative focused on widening the floodplain rather than hedging its bets with fortified embankments. Through this floodplain, excavators will carve a new channel for the River Waal, leaving an island at its center. For starters, the dikes will recede 1,148 feet inland, and the resulting widened floodplains will be excavated to create room for a new channel. The island that is left behind presents an opportunity to construct a whole new section of city along with a unique urban river park, thus creating a two-fold tool for urban regeneration and flood deterrence. At certain points, the island is at a sufficient elevation for this purpose. The city is building four new bridges to connect the new island to both sides of the river, while a new neighborhood is rising across the river from the city center, balancing urban development on both sides of the waterway. Existing floodplains along the River Waal consist mostly of agricultural land, but 50 families in the village of Lent will need to relocate nevertheless in order to accommodate the receded embankments. Room for the Waal is part of national flood prevention program "Room for the River," into which the Dutch government is investing 2.3 billion euros (nearly $2.6 billion) on more than 30 crucial river locations to protect four million people who live on flood-prone territory. The approach consists of broadening and deepening floodplains and removing groins that obstruct water flow. Room for the Waal is expected to complete at the end of this year with a final cost of $381.6 million.
Major cities in the United Kingdom such as London and Newcastle have adopted a gentler approach to flood resilience—harnessing features of the existing landscape instead of erecting fortifications. This ethos is embodied on King’s Road, an artery of Newcastle University in the Northeast of England, where permeable paving absorbs, filters and stores rainwater, while rainwater planters re-emit this moisture into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. Green roofs throughout the campus pull double duty, moonlighting as absorbent surfaces that reduce rainwater runoff and the carbon footprint while insulating the building against heat loss. Also a feature of the Herne Hill Highline Project in south London, where 22 green roofs run parallel to the River Effra, they have prevented flash floods that used to inundate the sewers and snarl local drainage systems. The New Derbyshire Pocket Park in Bethnal Green, London, is flood-proofed by virtue of a sustainable urban drainage system that slows surface water run-off through retention and storage, while bespoke planters dotted throughout the park also capture rainwater. In some cases, leaving nature to its own devices—with a few corrective prods from a landscape architect—is best. Built on the floodplain of the River Thames, the Barking Riverside development, which consists of 10,000 new homes, office spaces, schools and more, has relinquished part of the land to the river—better to be safe than sorry. Meanwhile, the flood-conscious landscaping provides areas for recreation, picnic zones, community gardens, and walking trails. All surface water run-off in the area is channeled towards the parkland to prevent river overflow, and is incrementally discharged into the creeks at low tide. Also in London, formerly flood-prone Church Street and Paddington Green have been primed to fend off rainfall greater than the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool with a 500 percent increase in trees and the installation of a rain garden, in which select plant species are configured for optimal soil infiltration to reduce run-off.
Taking the podium at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York City Representative Nydia M. Velázquez introduced new legislation, called the "Waterfront of Tomorrow Act," to protect and fortify New York City's 538-miles of coastline. The bill would instruct the Army Corps of Engineers to come up with an in-depth plan to stimulate economic growth and job creation, update the ports, and implement flood protection measures. Sandwiched between Red Hook Container Terminal and One Brooklyn Bridge Park, a large residential development, the pier was an appropriate place for the Congresswoman to announce legislation that addresses the city's needs to bolster its shipping industry while also taking steps to mitigate flooding and ensure the resiliency and sustainability of its residential neighborhoods, parkland, and businesses. "I think the part [of the bill] that was the most exciting was about protecting New York City from future floods, and most importantly talked about hard and soft solutions. Different parts of NYC will need different solutions," said Rick Bell, Executive Director for AIA New York Chapter Center for Architecture. "This whole announcement talked about multifaceted approach." The bill is divided into four sections that propose flood protection and resiliency measures, a national freight policy, and "Green Port" designations and a grant program to promote the environmental sustainability of the shipping ports. The Army Corps of Engineers, in collaboration with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, will be charged with coming up with a strategy to protect the waterfront from severe weather patterns and rising tides, including tide gates, oyster reef restoration, and wetland restoration. "Whether it is commerce, recreation, transportation, or our local environment, New Yorkers' lives are inextricably linked to the water that surrounds us," Velázquez said at the announcement. "Investing in our ports, coasts and waterfronts can improve our City and local communities." The timing of this bill is up in the air, but it will likely enter the conversation in September when Congress returns from the August District Work Period to discuss new legislation aimed at enhancing the nation's waterways.