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Fifth Anniversary of the Sand Motor Celebrated at a Conference in the Netherlands

The International Audit Committee: Hans Hansson from Lund University, Sweden; Todd Bridges, United States Army Corps of Engineers; Alison Baptiste, Environment Agency, United Kingdom; and Henk Ovink, Special Envoy Water Affairs for The Netherlands and chair of the committee. Helga van Leur (second from right) was conference master of ceremonies.

The International Audit Committee: Hans Hansson from Lund University, Sweden; Todd Bridges, United States Army Corps of Engineers; Alison Baptiste, Environment Agency, United Kingdom; and Henk Ovink, Special Envoy Water Affairs for The Netherlands and chair of the committee. Helga van Leur (second from right) was conference master of ceremonies.

Participants from the conference received tours at the Sand Motor, guided by some of the engineers and scientists that have worked on and studied the project.

“The Sand Motor: Five Years of Building with Nature” Conference, held September 14 and 15, 2016, at the Kurhaus Hotel Scheveningen and Kijkduin, the Netherlands, was a celebration and recognition of groundbreaking work in coastal protection. The Sand Motor is possibly the largest scientific experiment in coastal protection launched in this century. 

The conference was also an occasion to evaluate the Sand Motor’s effectiveness. For two days an assemblage of expert engineers and environmental scientists presented their findings on the “state of the Sand Motor.” 

The opening ceremony was led by chair Helga van Leur, a well-known meteorologist and weather presenter on Dutch National Tele-vision followed by Peter Heij, director general of Water and Environment, Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, and Rik Janssen, regional minister of the Province of South-Holland, in which both the city of The Hague and the city and Port of Rotterdam are located. 

Coastal protection in the Netherlands has been a serious business for hundreds of years. Successfully holding back the North Sea was and is a question of survival as well as an economic and environmental necessity. The innovative efforts that led to the construction of the Sand Motor project is completely in the tradition of this low-lying country. 

The Sand Motor is the first artificially built peninsula of its kind, constructed of 21 million cubic meters (27.4 million cubic yards) of sand. Constructed by dredging companies Van Oord and Royal Boskalis, it stretches out into the sea for one kilometer (over a half mile) and is two kilometers (1.2 miles) wide where it joins the shore, spreading sand along the coast. 

From March to November 2011, with support of Rijkswaterstaat (part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment responsible for management and maintenance of the infrastructure including water) and the Provincial Authority of South-Holland, the dredging contractors Boskalis and Van Oord created the hook-shaped peninsula. Trailing suction hop-per dredges picked up the sand ten kilometers off the coast and brought their loads to a designated placement area, which had been carefully calculated by engineers in order to make use of the naturally occurring currents and winds. Two offshore replenishment locations alongside the peninsula are also part of the Sand Motor. 

After the introduction, up-to-date “Results of the Monitoring and Evaluation Program” were reported by Carola van Gelder, who has been the project leader of the Sand Motor’s monitoring and assessment program at Rijkswaterstaat since 2012. Marcel Stive, professor of Coastal Engineering at Technical University Delft, then reported on the “Preliminary results of the scientific research in the program ‘Natu-recoast’.” Hans Kleij, program director Province of South-Holland, then presented information on “Benefits of the Sand Motor for recreation and nature.” 

This was followed by Ronald Boer, a member of the Satellietgroep Artists collective, with a presentation called, “Pitch: The Sand Motor as a cultural phenomenon.” In a unique approach to examining human influence in environment, the Satellietgroep Artists collective has formed an international cultural network to explore how the sea influences social and natural environments, the pressure caused by climate change, shifting economics, politics and tourism. The Sand Motor, besides being an engineering phenomenon, is a source of inspiration. It demonstrates the so-called Anthropocene Era. The Anthropocene is described as a time in which human activities have a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems. In this new period, landscapes are designed by people and formed by nature – which well describes the operations of the dredging industry, the Building with Nature movement and the Sand Motor. 

Presentations with an international approach included that of Todd Bridges, senior research scientist for environmental science at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on “Engineering with Nature in the United States” and Jaap van Thiel de Vries, program manager of Ecoshape’s Building with Nature program, entitled “Sandy Strategies Worldwide”. VanThiel highlighted the Sand Motor’s international opportunities, emphasizing that proponents of the Sand Motor concept must be aware that “copy-paste” – applying the situation in the Netherlands to other coast-lines – does not work. Each situation has its own regional requirements.  

Jaap Flikweert, director of water governance and strategy Royal Haskoning DHV United Kingdom with his report, “Sandscaping: A Sand Mo-tor in the United Kingdom” took the same perspective. Flikweert closed the plenary program with remarks about a Sand Motor for the United Kingdom, emphasizing the need to attract funding for such projects by recognizing local drivers and priorities to engage the public and government.

 In the coffee breaks and at lunch, an “Exhibition Market” offered attendees a chance to learn more about shore monitoring and specifically about Sand Motor research data monitoring. 

Two rounds of six parallel technical sessions followed with input from several key experts including Kathelijne Wijnberg of the University of Twente, Martin Baptist of Imares, Zjev Ambagt from the Province of South-Holland, Sebastian Huizer from Naturecoast and Roderik Hoekstra from Deltares. Examining the future strategies for coastal protection were Lenie Dwarshuis, Guus van der Hoef from the Foundation Nieuw Holland and Ronald Waterman, an internationally known consultant on water management, and environmental and civil engineering. Other experts who examined the future of the Sand Motor were Stefan Aarninkhof of Technical University Delft and Roeland Allewijn from Rijkswaterstaat. The potential for exporting the Sand Motor to other countries was also examined by Mary Veira in a Jamaican case study and Giordano Lipari and Giovanni Cecconi looking at experiences in Venice, Italy.  

After these presentations, the specially appointed International Audit Committee was requested to report its findings. The committee included Todd Bridges of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers; Alison Baptiste of the Environment Agency, United Kingdom; Hans Hanson from Lund University, Sweden and chair of the committee; Henk Ovink, Special Envoy Water Affairs for The Netherlands. Their report expressed their positive opinions of the “proactive mindset” of the project. They also emphasized their interest in how the success of the Sand Motor can be replicated in other international regions. They concluded that the Sand Motor will require ongoing independent audits and strong analysis in the next five years.

The second day of the conference gave participants a chance to have a look at the real thing. Excursions were organized which brought everyone to the Sand Motor with the opportunity to roam on the peninsula and see the beach, the wildlife and the recreational facilities. A number of expert guides gave scientific explanations of the natural assets of the region and the increasing habitat life that has returned to the sea and beach. This experience gave a firsthand view of the impact that the Sand Motor project has had, not only toward protecting the coastline, but enhancing the area socially, culturally and economically. With these aspects in mind, the conference organizers stage a “Tasting the Sand Motor event,” offering drinks and snacks to conference attendees and to the general public as well.

This fifth anniversary conference marked the first major evaluation of the Sand Motor project and even the parties involved in creating it have been surprised by the very positive results. The goals of the project – to increase coastal safety, create additional coastal space for leisure and nature and to contribute to knowledge database about coastal manage-ment – have been attained. The projected lifetime of the Sand Motor was expected to be 20 years, but this will probably take longer. At present, the Sand Motor is supplying sand to a five-kilometer (three-mile) stretch of coast. In the first four years, almost a million cubic meters (1.3 million cubic yards) of sand have spread to the south and about 1.5 million cubic meters (almost 2 million cubic yards) have spread to the north. 

The Sand Motor and Building with Nature have been developed by Ecoshape (http://www.ecoshape.nl/), a research consortium of dredging companies Royal Boskalis Westminster and Van Oord, several environmental consultancies such as Deltares and Arcadis, Dutch universities, the Port of Rotterdam, the Province of South Holland, the European Union and many others. 

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