September 15, 2009
by: Linda G. Miller

Event: H209 Water Forum
Location: Liberty Science Center, 09.09-10.09
Speakers: For a full list of the more than 100 speakers, and to download the full H209 program, go to
Organizers: Henry Hudson 400 in partnership with Liberty Science Center, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, and the Netherlands Water Partnership


The H209 Forum commemorated Henry Hudson’s pioneering voyage by exploring the water challenges of the 21st century.

Courtesy Henry Hudson 400

The Dutch have a saying that God created the earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands. “The Dutch have a long, and sometimes painful, relationship with the sea,” said Cees Veerman, chairman of the Dutch Delta Commission and co-chair of H209 — a two-day forum for the Dutch to share their knowledge and best practices. The great flood of 1953, ever present in conversation today, spurred the creation of the Delta Works, a series of locks, dams, and flood barriers. With the predicted rise in sea level and fluctuations in river discharge, the Dutch are constantly planning for disaster. For that reason, the government established a “new” delta committee, called the Sustainable Coastal Development Committee. Whereas the former committee focused on hydraulic engineering works to counter an acute threat, the second is charged with making recommendations with a broader mandate. Top on their list of goals: how to adapt to climate change.

Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb of Rotterdam showed post-WWII and current photos of his city, Holland’s second largest with Europe’s largest port. Located on the North Sea, the port of Rotterdam has 24/7 access, hosting companies that specialize in storage, trans-shipment, and ancillary services. “And it could all be gone in seconds,” said Aboutaleb. One solution to rising tides is the Delta Works’ Maeslant Barrier, a storm surge barrier built in 1997 consisting of two enormous doors that fill with water and sink to the bottom when closed to seal off the port. The barrier is only closed in extreme weather, but the Dutch expect this to happen more frequently due to the rising sea levels. Because of this and other developments, Rotterdam hopes to be a 100% climate-proof delta city by 2025.

Also on the minds of attendees was Hurricane Katrina, which U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) said was our “wake-up call,” warning of another category-three storm in the near future. She compared the U.S. to a drowning person, as Holland is an Olympic swimmer. The senator reiterated reform goals she detailed in a letter to President Obama urging restoration, flood protection, and a new system of integrated water management. She called for dedicated funding to replace the project-by-project approach that has characterized the Water Resources Development Authority legislation in the past, and hopes this administration will designate a high-level working group to address these issues.



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