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Natuurlijk Afsluitdijk still in the race for innovative water management and sustainable development

Superbus, solar wall, Valmeer, mussel farming, ’Blue Energy’ power station and kite energy are just some of the possibilities which the second Afsluitdijk could create. The dike is the response of the consortium ‘Natuurlijk Afsluitdijk’ to the Afsluitdijk market research undertaken by the Dutch Directorate-General of Waterways and Public Works (Rijkswaterstaat) and the two provinces of Friesland and North Holland. ‘The dike creates new space of land and sea and will become an icon of innovation and a source of national pride that will lead to the strengthening of the Dutch international competitive position in the field of sustainable energy, water engineering and nature and the environment,’ says Wubbo Ockels, the man behind the consortium.

The Afsluitdijk must be adapted due to a change in safety requirements. At the 75th anniversary celebration of the Afsluitdijk in 2007, State Secretary Tineke Huizinga’s challenge, ‘this is an opportunity to do more than just safety’, inspired Ockels with the vision of a second Afsluitdijk. There are countless options - locating the second dike on the Wadden Sea side, or on the IJsselmeer side or a combination of the two. Intelligent combinations of the various elements and functions would generate an entirely new and remarkable innovative synergy. It is essential to integrate technological, ecological and economic feasibility, all elements that make the ‘Natuurlijk Afsluitdijk’ unique: it will become an icon of the Dutch innovative water management and sustainable development policy.

The ‘Natuurlijk Afsluitdijk’ consortium’s second dike will create a challenging and innovative new space, both literally and figuratively, while the old dike will maintain its shape and act as a transport dike. ‘We are putting forward an integrated plan that presents opportunities for sustainable energy production and storage, for aqua culture, recreation, new mobility and connecting the northern regions via the 'Noorderzeelijn'. This Innovation Area will mean a continual stimulus and challenge. It will rejuvenate the North, there will be no reason for young people to leave, and every reason to stay and build a new future,' says Ockels.

For the moment the consortium is looking at all the possibilities right across the board and is investigating a wide range of variations for the second dike (Wadden Sea side, IJsselmeer side or a combination). This is giving rise to creative and innovative ideas and combinations of functions. The consortium will acquire sufficient insight into the effects and possible synergy in order to make a selection in December 2008. The primary objectives are safety in the short term, more space for nature, sustainable energy and energy storage, and high-quality mobility (Superbus). The Wadden area will be energy neutral (osmosis power station).

Professor Wubbo J. Ockels is the initiator of the Natural Afsluitdijk plan and Royal Haskoning is project-managing it for the consortium. Other partners, who are established worldwide, are Van Oord, Lievense, Rabobank, BAM and Eneco. With their experience, diversity and performance capability this consortium can construct a sound technological, ecological basis for reliable feasibility statements that will form the foundations for a possible government decision.

The consortium - one of eight in the running - submitted its phase one report yesterday. In September the steering group investigating the future of the Afsluitdijk, under the leadership of State Secretary Tineke Huizinga, will decide which of the consortiums will continue to the next phase.

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