Every year, the sea takes sand from the Dutch coast. Every five years, Rijkswaterstaat replenishes the shortfall by depositing sand on the beaches and in the offshore area. If we didn't, the west of the Netherlands, which is below sea level, would be exposed to the sea. The sand replenishment operations every five years do the job, but can we protect the coast in more sustainable and natural ways?
By building the Sand Motor (also known as Sand Engine), a peninsula on the coast near Ter Heijde, we try to find out whether nature can spread sand along the coast for us. It goes without saying that the Dutch government is not experimenting with the safety of its people: the coastal defences are now at maximum strength as the Sand Motor starts to take shape.
Between March 2011 and November 2011, Rijkswaterstaat and the provincial authority of Zuid-Holland created the hook-shaped peninsula. It extends 1 km into the sea and is 2 km wide where it joins the shore. Trailing suction hopper dredgers picked up the sand ten kilometres off the coast and took it to the right place. Two offshore replenishment locations alongside the peninsula are also part of the Sand Motor.
Building with Nature
The Sand Motor is a great example of building with nature. By depositing a large amount of sand in a single operation, we can avoid repeated disruption of the vulnerable seabed. Nature will take the sand to the right place for us. If the Sand Motor fulfils our expectations, sand replenishment off the Delfland Coast will be unnecessary for the next 20 years.
Unique in the world
The Sand Motor is the first experiment of its kind. With this pilot project, the Netherlands is continuing to set the standard in water management. In 2011, we are doing this by actually working with water, instead of against it. If the Sand Motor works as we expect, the concept can be rolled out to other places in the Netherlands and the rest of the world.
Scientists are studying how the Sand Motor develops to see whether this innovative method for coastal protection does indeed work. Measurement data are also needed to manage the Sand Motor properly. One example is mapping out new currents so we know where it is safe to bathe. But we also want to see which animals visit the Sand Motor, and how visitors spend their leisure time on the Sand Motor.
The hook-shaped peninsula will change the form of the coast, creating new currents. The provincial authority of Zuid-Holland and the beach rescue services will issue bathing recommendations as the situation develops, because it will not be safe to go into the sea everywhere. So you should keep an eye on signs on the beach, and always follow the recommendations of the beach rescue services. Immediately after construction, there will be a ban on bathing in the area of the Sand Motor. The ban will be lifted in designated areas only when we are sure that bathing is safe. The ban is expected to remain in place for the northernmost tip of the Sand Motor.
The Sand Motor: space, and peace and quiet
The Sand Motor is open for recreational purposes. Visitors are able to ramble over the enormous sand shoal. Seals may also be present on the Sand Motor. Of course, nature - young dunes for example - needs time to develop. After a few years, visitors will be able to forage in the new nature, which will be allowed to develop freely on the Sand Motor. The Sand Motor provides a new option for anybody looking for space, and peace and quiet, as a refuge from the hectic life in the cities of the western Netherlands.