Venice, Italy is a historical city known for many things, but most notably as the City of Water. The water creates its charm and uniqueness. This important characteristic also can be the biggest threat to the city. Venice has survived for a long time, but due to rising water levels, and gradual foundation decay there is more and more concern for flooding. Back in 1966, Venice was flooded and a lot of ground floors were ruined along with trillions of dollars worth of art. The long-term danger of flooding is that once water hits the bricklayer it can travel up and start eroding the structural rock. In the 1900s Piazza San Marco flooded approximately 7 times a year, whereas it flooded 121 times in 2004. There is obviously a very present danger, and something needs to change.
In 1989 an idea was proposed to control flooding, and it was called the MOSE Project. Technically, it stands for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico (Experimental Electromechanical Module)], but also Mose is Italian for Moses who parted the Red Sea in the Old Testament. Eventually the plan was approved in 2003, and the estimated completion date is in 2014. The project consists of 78 floodgates as well as smaller breakwaters and planted vegetation. There are three inlets to the lagoon where the MOSE project is concentrated.
How the Floodgates Work
Each of the floodgates is independently operated in order to fit the specific water conditions. Individually the gates are 20 meters wide, 20 to 30 meters high, and 4 to 5 meters thick. When water levels are fine, the gates lie flat at the bottom. When the water levels rise to over 100 cm the gates are pumped with compressed air, which causes them to rise. At full extension, the gates are at a 60-degree angle and above the water level, blocking any additional water from entering. When the conditions are no longer a threat, the gates are filled with water and sink back to the bottom.
This project is estimated to have a final cost of 8.8 billion US dollars, but for most people it is worth it. There are a few who are worried about the negative impacts the MOSE Project could have, especially on the environment. When the gates are up the normal sewage will be unable to flow out. Environmentalists are concerned with how the wildlife will adapt. The impact is difficult to predict, but I think there are situations where you have to address the most imminent concern first, which in this case is flooding.
Venice is already on most engineers travel list. The original construction of Venice is an amazing accomplishment, and the MOSE Project only adds to the cities impressive engineering status. Visiting the city is straight forward compared to the other sites we have focused on. It is easy to fly into the city and to find places to stay. Unfortunately since the floodgates are underwater there isn’t too much to see. If you want to see something, the best view is from Lido di Venezia. Perhaps the most visible way you can see the MOSE Project will be in the future when Venice is still standing.