Dam Complex Complete At Last
Published: August 17, 2011 (Issue # 1670)
St. Petersburg is finally protected from potentially devastating flooding after the St. Petersburg Flood Protection Complex (FPC) was officially completed Friday.
The complex, located between the village of Gorskaya and the city’s naval suburb of Kronshtadt on Kotlin Island, is designed to hold at bay water levels rising up to 5 meters.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who took part in the opening ceremony, said the construction was “worthy of St. Petersburg.”
“It’s a grandiose construction. There is some technological beauty in it,” Putin was cited by Interfax as saying.
The opening of the dam was timed to coincide with the launch of a tunnel running underneath a new shipping canal to connect Kotlin Island and the southern and northern parts of the city. The six-lane tunnel is both a part of the dam complex, and the final part of the city’s 140-kilometer Ring Road.
The construction of the FPC was one of the city’s biggest and most complex projects, and regularly faced financial problems and ecological scandals.
St. Petersburg has been hit by more than 300 floods in the city’s 308-year history. It was a flood in 1955 that pushed the Soviet government to consider protecting the city with a dam.
Construction finally began in late 1979. The plan was to build a 25-kilometer dam complex that would curve around the Neva Bay to protect the city from the gulf beyond, but it was halted in the late 1980s because of ecological worries and a lack of funds.
In 2001, the Dutch government and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development sponsored initial research into the possibility of reviving the plans for the dam’s construction. Construction work resumed in 2005.
The protection barrier can close within thirty minutes of an alarm signal. Meteorologists warn of a possible flood 48 hours and then 24 hours beforehand. Meteorologists and dam workers keep a close eye on the water level in the final 24 hours, and if it looks set to rise 1.6 meters above the norm, the dam is closed.
The complex includes 11 dams, sluices that allow gulf water to go back and forth in measured quantities, two ship-passing facilities that also work as flood gates and a six-lane automobile road with bridges, a tunnel and transport interchanges.
Experts say completion of the barrier will save the city substantial sums of money.
Alexander Boutovsky, senior consultant and business development director for the Coastal and Rivers Division in Russia for the Dutch company of Royal Haskoning, said last year that the dam saves the city more than $100 million every year in potential flood damages. Haskoning provided engineering and consultancy services for almost a decade on the flood protection complex.
Concerns about environmental damage to the fragile ecology of the Neva delta had to be taken into account during the dam’s construction. There was also the significant problem of unexploded World War II mines in the area.
The project cost $3.6 billion in total, Interfax reported — approximately as much as the world’s biggest flood defense construction in the Netherlands. London’s dam, built in 1984, cost $2.5 billion, Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported.