By Gwyn G. Neill
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Public Affairs
Dr. Todd S. Bridges, senior research scientist, with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center was recently invited by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, also known as the Rijkswaterstaat, to serve on an international peer-review panel.
The Rijkswaterstaat is the government agency responsible for the design, construction, management and maintenance of road, waterway and flood protection systems in the Netherlands.
As a member of the panel, Bridges was charged with evaluating project execution and performance of the Sand Motor project.
According to their website, the Sand Motor is simply a large artificial sand bank. The Sand Motor was constructed on the Dutch coast beginning in 2011 using nearly 20 cubic meters of sand mined from the ocean floor. It will gradually change shape before it is transformed into a new dune landscape and wider beach.
The project’s purpose is to provide decades of sand needed to nourish 10 kilometers of coastline, through natural redistribution to support coastal resilience, ecosystem services and recreational benefits.
The reason this project is important to the Netherlands is that a low-lying country such as the Netherlands needs to defend itself against water and potential flooding. With climate change contributing to sea level rise, the need to defend becomes increasingly more urgent. The country’s beaches are their first line of defense.
“It was an honor to be selected for the peer-review panel for this project. It’s one of the largest projects of its kind in the world and I’ve been following its development with great interest since I first visited the project shortly after its initial construction,” said Bridges.
He added, “Serving on a peer-review panel provides an opportunity to share ideas with colleagues in other organizations that, in my experience, always produces insights that lead to new lines of inquiry and project opportunities. That was certainly my experience in this case.”
The peer-review panel presented it results at a meeting in The Hague where Bridges also delivered the keynote address on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering With Nature Program.
In his keynote speech, Bridges stressed, “We have a long history of engineering with nature in the U.S. One of the goals of our Engineering With Nature Program is to combine these experiences with the capabilities emerging from our research and development programs in order to advance our practice and expand our opportunities to engineer with nature.”
Attendees included political and senior government officials, stakeholders and members of the technical community from the Netherlands and other countries.
Bridges explained, “There is strong interest, internationally, in finding ways to work with natural processes and systems to support infrastructure, the environment and our communities. There is a lot of work going on around the world in support of this goal. This is a dynamic and fast moving area of research and practice. The pace at which the field is moving makes it very important to actively engage the international technical community. Venues like this provide an ideal forum for this engagement.”