THURSDAY MARCH 21, 2013 Waterschap Zuiderzeeland + Noordostpolder

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by John Briel

For the urban planners, our tour of Nordoostpolder, and all its interesting components, marked the final day of our Cities on the Water experience. So with sunny skies and bittersweet sentiments, we boarded our tour bus (with Ricardo behind the wheel) for the last time, together as MLAs and MURPs. As always, this day was thoughtfully planned for our educational enjoyment. The three primary focus areas of this excursion were to 1) explore and better understand how the Dutch manage water with state-of-the-art technologies; 2) the importance of re-establishing and maintaining aquatic ecological harmony in the landscape; and 3) the principles behind preserving cultural and historical landscapes for future generations.

Many people contributed to make our day a success, including presentations from Het Flevo-landschap’s Roelof Duijff, Waterschap hydrologist Elmer Benjamin and Waterschap ecologist Martijn Hokken, our main host was Willem Van Dijk, Head of Water Management at Waterschap Zuiderzeeland in Lelystad. Our first stop of the day was the UNESCO World Heritage site, Schokland Island, the “island on the land.” This former island that was once situated in the Zuiderzee is today situated in the middle of the Noordoostpolder and surrounded by an agricultural landscape. When the island became just an interesting elevated plain in the flat landscape of the polder in 1942, the Dutch dismantled vestiges of its former inhabitants in an effort to fulfill a national demand for new farmland. In recent years, as the Dutch culture has adjusted its landscape priorities and needs, the historic, cultural and ecological features of island have been revived through structural restorations and landscape designs that make the site’s history more readable to visitors.

To further exemplify how the Dutch are interested in strengthening and expanding the cultural, ecological and recreational opportunities in the Noordoostpolder, the Rotterdamse Hoek project was our next stop. Due to high-pressure seepage in the polder, water management needed to renew the landscape in the Hoek’s area to mitigate the detrimental impacts on the agricultural land. Not only is the current project solving these seepage woes its also simultaneously incorporating Martijn Hokken’s aquatic ecological principles – structural diversity, low eutrophication, and natural water level fluctuation – into the design. Thus, by taking a more holistic approach to problem solving, the Dutch have artfully solved multiple landscape concerns within one project. Even if this approach increases the project cost, the resulting positive long-term externalities to the people, the landscape and the greater environment are simply invaluable.

The final stop of the day was an eye-opening tour of the Lelystad pumping station, which provided insight into how the Dutch masterfully move water flowing into the polder, out. The station engineering, Jan, provided us with the fundamentals of the pumping system that makes the polder’s highly controlled and contrived landscape possible. The primary drivers of water management in the polder are first and foremost human safety from flooding, a sufficient water supply, and lastly clean water for the environmental landscape. Refreshingly, human and environmental concerns transcend those rooted in economics.

This highly informative day was a great way to cap off studying all the various, but interconnected, elements of the Dutch landscape that are realized because of technological advances, shifting social policies, and increasingly challenging environments. I am very thankfully the Dutch are thinking presciently and developing expert knowledge in water management, cultural preservation and balanced ecological landscapes, it’s inspirational.

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by Stephanie Erwin

Thursday we visited the Noordoostpolder in Flevoland to get a feeling of water management in the Netherlands. In the Noordoostpolder, we visited Schokland, a former island in the Zuiderzee. The site is now just a slight elevation in the landscape since the water has been drained in 1942. We toured the old Emmeloord harbor that is now in a park that is complete with a abstracted ship sculpture demarking where sea used to be. Because of its novel history, Schokland became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Then we stopped by the cultural heritage site and nature reserve Rotterdamse Hoek. Because the site is currently under construction and walls of the ditches were exposed, we were able to understand the seabed soil horizon of the Noordoostpolder. This site was especially interesting to me because the dike was actually assembled from the ruins of Rotterdam after the bombing at the beginning of the German occupation in WWII.

The last stop of the day was the Lelystad pumping station Wortman in Flevoland. Our tour guide explained how the five pumping stations in Flevoland keep the polder dry. Inside the station, we saw the huge diesel pumping engines from 1956. Three of the five stations have been upgraded to electric.

We visited each location via bus, stopping at along to way to sketch and photograph dikes. One of the most powerful moments for me was on the Houtribdijk. The sun was shining while the strong coastal winds were blowing. For context, the northeast side of the dike is the Ijsselmeer and the southeast the Markermeer. Seeing the varying elevations of water on either side really solidified just how much control the Dutch have over their landscapes.