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Dry feet thanks to robust dunes and dykes

  • 500 kilometres of coastline
  • 800 mm of precipitation a year
  • 13 Delta Works
  • 700 kilometres of dyke

Climate change is increasing the risk of flooding, both in coastal and delta regions. ‘With our headquarters in a country that is largely below sea level, we know all about this,’ says Ronald Schinagl, Van Oord’s Area Director Netherlands. ‘To guarantee that Dutch feet will stay dry, Van Oord regularly works on coastal defence and dyke reinforcement projects. Our ingenious solutions have helped make the Netherlands famous as a centre of water management expertise.’

We act as a sparring partner for the authorities in many different countries in their battle against flooding. As a leading contractor for dredging and marine engineering projects, we’ve not only come up with innovative flood management solutions for the Netherlands, but also for the United Kingdom and Indonesia.

Pieter van Oord, Van Oord’s CEO
Pieter van Oord, Van Oord’s CEO

To protect the coastline against a so-called superstorm that occurs once every 10,000 years, the Hollands Noorderkwartier Regional Water Board contracted a Van Oord consortium to create broad dunes and beaches along the Hondsbossche and Pettemer seawall. The innovative project design not only protects the coast but also creates space for nature conservation and leisure activities. ‘To limit the inconvenience to the local community and combat sand-drift, we're using traditional, natural materials to keep the sand we’ve deposited in place,’ says Niels Hutter, Environmental Manager for Van Oord. ‘This involves adding pulped paper during dune construction, planting approximately 640,000 square metres of marram grass, and installing kilometres-long willow twig sand screens.’   

Coast reinforcement was a top priority in this area. The consortium literally did battle with the rising sea level by completing a major sand nourishment operation in a very short period of time. The new area will merge seamlessly into the existing dunes of the Noord-Holland coast.

Kees Stam, Executive Board Member for the Hollands Noorderkwartier Regional Water Board
Kees Stam, Executive Board Member for the Hollands Noorderkwartier Regional Water Board

Hagestein-Opheusden Dyke Improvement is only one of the many projects that are part of the Room for the River Programme. ‘We were contracted by the Rivierenland Water Board to reinforce approximately 18 kilometres of embankment here, as part of a consortium. The project area encompassed two dyke rings, ten project sites and five municipalities,' explains Stan Bettinger, Project Manager for Van Oord. ‘We found a simple and environmentally friendly way to improve dyke safety by using dyke pins, steel anchor rods encased in cement. They’re inserted into the dyke’s underlying layer of sand and prevent the dyke from collapsing during flooding. It’s a smart solution when work space is at a premium, for example because of housing and vegetation.’ 

Close cooperation between Van Oord, GMB, BAM Infra Speciale Technieken and Royal HaskoningDHV gave rise to this new dyke reinforcement method. These kinds of innovations help us achieve the targets set by our Flood Protection and Room for the River programmes.

Martin Schepers, HWBP Dyke Reinforcement Programme Manager at Rivierenland Water Board
Martin Schepers, HWBP Dyke Reinforcement Programme Manager at Rivierenland Water Board

Awarded by the Hollands Noorderkwartier Regional Water Board (HHNK) Van Oord executes the dike reinforcement project Den Oever in the north of The Netherlands. ‘To limit inconvenience, we are using sheet-pile walls instead of soil to reinforce the dyke on the village side. By applying static pressure instead of vibratory hammers to embed the sheet-pile walls, we can avoid vibration damage,’ explains Project Manager Wulfert Bontenbal. ‘We are also transporting the sheet-pile walls to the project site by barge, reducing the number of heavy-duty lorries driving there. Finally, we have phased project execution to allow for peak activity in the fishing fleet, hotels and restaurants, and other businesses. All of these precautions allow Van Oord to contribute to the safety of the region without disrupting everyday life.’

Our comprehensive and easy-to-read plan succeeded in striking the right tone with the Regional Water Board and with Den Oever’s local businesses and residents.

Ria Gouwens, Community Manager at Van Oord

The Netherlands is a country that lives with water. For the Dutch, water is both friend and foe. The country’s location on the North Sea and in the delta of Europe’s major rivers has brought it prosperity, but it has also made the Netherlands vulnerable to flooding. More than 1100 kilometres of dyke and 256 locks and pumping stations will need to be reinforced and improved by 2028. The work has been divided into almost 300 projects spread out across the entire country, some along the coast, some along the major rivers, and some along lakes. 

As imposing as our storm surge barriers are, the Dutch can never allow themselves to get complacent. The climate is changing, the sea level is rising, and the risk of storm surges is increasing. We’re becoming more vulnerable. Some sixty percent of the Netherlands is flood-prone, and precisely those areas have no less than nine million inhabitants. The work is never finished, and it’s critical that we involve water boards, provincial and municipal authorities, companies, research institutes and the public in that work.

Michèle Blom, Director-General of Rijkswaterstaat
Michèle Blom, Director-General of Rijkswaterstaat