Dutch flood experts in Calgary to help improve emergency plans
Low-lying Netherlands has a very advanced flood protection program
Dutch flood experts are in Calgary this week taking part in a conference to help Alberta prevent another emergency like the one that devastated the city last summer.
The Netherlands has the most advanced flood protection program in the world. It was devised after two major floods in the 1990s.
Ahead of this week’s conference, the Dutch experts have been examining the situation in Alberta and helping officials here improve Alberta’s flood response plan.
Ralph Schielen, who is in charge of the Dutch program, remembers the wake-up call that changed the Netherlands — a country where much of the land is at or below sea level.
"People were very scared because some dikes were at the point of breaking and we had to evacuate about 250,000 people from the area,” he said.
The plan involved moving dikes farther from the shoreline, increasing the depth of the side channels and removing obstacles that can trap water.
His advice for Alberta is to do a detailed cost-benefit analysis to determine the optimal form of protection.
“At some point of course it costs too much, so you have to make a good analysis. For instance you can make embankments, but then you are dealing perhaps with houses that are standing there, so perhaps you have to remove those houses."
Henk ten Wolde, a trade commissioner for the Dutch consulate in Alberta, said his country often lends its flood prevention and mitigation expertise to other jurisdictions.
“I think it is something we would like to share with the rest of the world because we know how devastating a flood can be. We did it in New Orleans, we did it with Katrina and on this one we have to assist the Canadians — the Albertans,” he said.