Scientists Suggest Dams for Rising Seas


Government-employed Dutch scientist and oceanographer Sjoerd Groeskamp has recently proposed a solution to protect an estimated 25 million Europeans living in northern Europe from rising sea levels caused by climate change.

In his proposal, Groeskamp suggests that two dams be built in the English Channel: one between France and England and the other between Scotland and Norway, enclosing the North Sea.

Sea Wall Protection

Combined, the two dams—referred to as Northern European Enclosure Dam (NEED)—are expected to measure 395 miles total, need roughly 51 billion tons of sand to build and would cost 250-500 billion euros ($274-549 billion).

“If you look back hundreds and hundreds of years, then we’ve made some significant adaptations to our landscape, and the Netherlands is an example of that,” said Hannah Cloke, a professor of hydrology at the University of Reading regarding the possibility of the project. “We can, as humans, do amazing things.”

According to Groeskamp, water depths in the North Sea between France and England don’t measure much over 100 meters (328 feet), and the average depth between Scotland and Norway is 127 meters, with its deepest point measuring 320 meters off the coast of Norway.

“We are currently able to build fixed platforms in depths exceeding 500 metres, so such a dam seems feasible,” he said.

The infrastructure, if pursued, would be paid for over a 20-year period and is calculated to amount to just over 0.1% of the 14 countries’ combined GDP.

However, Groeskamp adds, “We must also take into account factors such as the loss of income from North Sea fishing, the increased costs for shipping across the North Sea, and the costs of gigantic pumps to transport all of the river water that currently flows into the North Sea to the other side of the dam.”

Costs and consequences of not doing anything about the rising sea levels are projected to cost much more. According to reports, climate change models predict sea levels will rise 2 meters by 2100 and 10 meters by 2500.

However, the infrastructure would negatively affect wildlife found in the North and Baltic Seas through tide disruption and the circulation of sediment, nutrients and small marine life. Not to mention, up to 100 pumping stations would also be added to the dam, as to incorporate more fresh water from rivers, lowering the salinity and affecting fish.

In attempting to provide an alternative, Groeskamp concludes in his report that the only solution to the rising sea levels would be to apply an immediate implementation of climate change mitigation efforts so that the rising sea levels could be prevented all together.

A paper regarding the possible infrastructure solution by Groeskamp and researcher Joakim Kjellsson from the Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, is slated to be published in the American Journal of Meteorology later this month.

Other Barrier Project Considerations

Back in 2017, the city of Boston was reportedly considering the construction of a sea barrier that would stretch across the 4 miles between Hull and Deer islands.

This idea was raised after a city report released by Climate Ready Boston, an initiative to develop solutions to prepare the city for climate change. The report detailed scientific findings of what weather and climate changes the city could expect to endure within the next century as well as action plan suggestions, such as a surge barrier in the harbor.

In addition to the hypothetical barrier’s 4-mile length, it would rise at least 20 feet above low tide, which makes it a barrier akin to structures in New Orleans, Venice and Rotterdam.

Last year, the San Francisco International Airport announced that it would be building a new sea wall, constructed of steel pilings and concrete to protect the location.

With funding to be composed primarily of bonds and paid off through higher fees for airlines, the wall project will ultimately cost $1.7 billion paid off over the next 30 years.

According to the fiscal feasibility study, the project would include the construction of sheetpile walls at most of the reaches, new concrete walls at a number of channels and the removal of existing embankments would also be carried out.


Tagged categories: Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection; EU; Europe; Government; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Locks and dams; Port Infrastructure; Project Management; Research and development

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