climate change

Chris Granger / Times-Picayune | The Advocate

Last summer the Mississippi River and many of its tributaries flooded for months, causing more than $20 billion dollars in damage. Climate change is bringing more heavy and frequent rainstorms, a threat many flood protection systems were not built for. Rivers creep over levees or burst them. There’s nowhere for the water to go.

The Dutch have long been proud tamers of rivers. They have built huge networks of levees to keep rising waters away from farms and cities. But now officials are trying what seems like an obvious approach: making room for the water.

Chris Granger / Times-Picayune | The Advocate

By Tristan Baurick, Times-Picayune | The Advocate

NOORDWAARD, The Netherlands — Vic Gremmer walked through an invisible garden and reached for a doorknob that wasn’t there.

“Here was the opening of the front door,” he said, holding out his hand in a marshy landscape of reeds and willows near a river about 10 miles from Rotterdam. “Here was my home. Over there, the road. But all of it is changed.”

Chris Granger / Times-Picayune | The Advocate

The Netherlands is a coastal nation and faces similar threats to Louisiana, like rising seas, stronger storms and a sinking coast. Over the past thousand years, the Dutch have built giant floodwalls and levees to protect them from the North Sea, just like officials continue to do in Louisiana.

But climate change is bringing new threats, and the Dutch are trying some unusual approaches. They are rebuilding land with the power of nature, using some tools that we could use here in Louisiana.

Times-Picayune | The Advocate

By Tristan Baurick, Times Picayune | The Advocate

TER HEIJDE, The Netherlands — With a surfboard strapped to his feet and the reins of a giant kite in his hands, Daan Vijverberg skimmed over whitecaps on the Netherlands’ windy south coast. Nearby, other kiteboarders caught gusts strong enough to fling their wetsuited bodies several feet into the air.

“It’s addictive,” Vijverberg said, emerging from the water with a red face and the sniffles. “I have to come two, three times a week.”

Chris Granger / Times-Picayune | The Advocate

By Tristan Baurick, Times-Picayune | The Advocate

Up close is not the best way to see the world’s biggest gate.

Standing alongside it from one end, where a three-story hinge links to a massive steel lattice, the Maeslant storm surge barrier resembles three crane towers toppled across one another. From the opposite end, nearly 280 yards away, it’s an imposing white wall, like a drive-in movie screen stretched the length of 2½ football fields.

And that’s only half of it.