Coastal Defense Weak Links in Western Zeeuws-Vlaanderen
Every five years, the district water board tests whether the Zeeland dykes are still strong enough to withstand a super storm (with a force that occurs once every 4000 years). This standard has been set down in the Delta Act. By way of comparison: a storm of the type that caused the Flood Disaster of 1953 occurs once every 250 years.
The test conducted in 2006 has shown that the coast of western Zeeuws-Vlaanderen failed to meet the standard. This has been reported to the central government. Since many more coastal sections in the Netherlands have failed to meet the Delta standard, the Flood Protection Programme has been set up. These coastal sections were designated as so-called Weak Links.
The total of 100 Weak Links shall have to be reinforced by no later than 2015. The reinforcement of the western Zeeuws-Vlaanderen weak link involves a huge project costed at 160 million euros. It was rolled out in 2009 and has been divided into 5 components:
- Nieuwvliet-Groede (2009-2010)
- Re-dyking of Zwarte Polder (2010-2011)
- Breskens (2011-2012)
- Waterdunen (2013-2015)
- Cadzand-Bad (2015-2016)
Coastal protection of western Zeeuws-Vlaanderen is achieved by dyke improvement and a considerable expansion of the existing dune area. At many locations, the reinforced dyke slopes have disappeared underneath the sand, resulting in the appearance of a large dune area. This enhances the recreational value of the area. In the summer, western Zeeuws-Vlaanderen attracts high volumes of tourists, because it is known for its lovely and clean beaches. Its natural values have also been given considerable impetus.
The western Zeeuws-Vlaanderen Weak Link is unique because it does not just involve flood protection by means of coastal reinforcement, but also pursues spatial quality, Nature development, and economic impetus by increasing the area’s appeal to tourists.
Near Waterdunen, a tidal culvert has been constructed with a nature reserve beyond. Private investors are capitalising on the opportunities by furnishing holiday accommodations, and a marina is being constructed near the Cadzand-Bad coastal reinforcement. The western Zeeuws-Vlaanderen coastal reinforcement thus acts as a type of flywheel for upgrading the area.
Every year, the area is visited by thousands of tourists, including many Germans. For that reason, the inconvenience caused by these activities was minimised during the summer months, so that beach pavilions and other catering establishments could remain open. In addition, tours of the works have been organised.