Floodgates in Venice Work in First Major Test

ROME — After many years of bureaucratic delays, corruption and resistance from environmental teams, sea partitions designed to defend Venice from “acqua alta,” or excessive water, went up on Saturday, testing their capacity to battle town’s more and more menacing floods.

By 10 a.m., all 78 floodgates barricading three inlets to the Venetian lagoon had been raised, and even when the tide reached as excessive as 4 ft, water ranges contained in the lagoon remained regular, officers stated.

“There wasn’t even a puddle in St. Mark’s Square,” stated Alvise Papa, the director of the Venice division that displays excessive tides.

Had the flood boundaries not been raised, about half town’s streets would have been below water, and guests to St. Mark’s Square — which floods when the tide nears three ft — would have been wading in a foot and a half of water, he stated.

The floodgates have been tested several times over the past summer, but under less threatening weather conditions than those on Saturday.

“This time we raised them to defend Venice,” said Alberto Scotti, the engineer who designed them.

The system is not fully operational yet. Some infrastructure still needs to be completed, and workers haven’t been fully trained, so Saturday’s operation was technically a test.

“If the lagoon is cut off from the sea for long periods, it dies, because the natural exchange of waters stops, and all of its organic life risks decaying,” he said.

“If the lagoon dies, Venice dies,” he added. “It loses its characteristics.”

Mr. Gasparetto also said he doubted that the floodgates would work in extreme conditions with high waves and strong winds. “There is still a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “Today’s test says nothing when it comes to that.”

Concerns also remain about the costs of maintaining the floodgates and potential damage from saltwater.

Still, the operation of the gates on Saturday was greeted in Venice as progress.

“Today we had the certainty that it works,” Luca Zaia, the president of the Veneto region, which includes Venice, told reporters on Saturday. “At least we know that it can help Venice.”

Source link Nytimes.com

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