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Dike innovation offers solution to New Orleans flood areas

‘Dutchdam’ is folding emergency flood barrier

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

WOUBRUGGE - An innovation which earned designer Corné Rijlaarsdam a development award from the Dutch government recently, could provide solutions to flood-prone Louisiana and other such danger zones around the world. The ‘Dutchdam’ is a folding emergency barrier, which can be deployed quickly and with relative ease if water levels rise.

The water barrier innovation already is deployed in a number of locations, including Nijmegen’s Waal river banks and at eight locations in Dublin, Ireland, where the Dutchdams now prevent the Liffey River from inundating parts of the town as it has done for decades. The Nijmegen deployment eventually will be expanded to hundreds of metres. The barrier there can be raised within a few hours, and with limited manpower.

The Rijlaarsdam invention also can be used to temporarily strengthen dikes. His Dutchdam could be installed on top of river dikes and be deployed when the need arises. The barrier voids the necessity to rebuild dikes, or otherwise cap them, which in many instances is virtually impossible because of the presence of roads, houses and commercial driveways.

The principle of the Dutchdam is quite simple. The steel and aluminum elements are folded in a concrete and steel trench, which is covered by a lid making it an imperceptible part of the road or level with the landscape. Depending on the intended use, the Dutchdam itself could be as high as 80 centimetres in its simplest form and up to two metres in the so-called Delta variety. When deployed, the dam is strengthened by steel stays, cables and rods, while the vertical joints are watertight.

The Dutchdam, although originally intended for domestic use, can be beneficial all over the world. The designer thinks that many river communities could be protected by the Dutch innovation, including New Orleans’ low-lying areas, which were inundated by Hurricane Katrina. Rijlaarsdam believes that new dike construction in Louisiana - a project that is still in the development stage - could be fast-tracked with his product.