Storm surge barrier

The storm surge barrier, or Eastern Scheldt barrier, is a dam between the Eastern Scheldt and the North Sea. Through 62 openings with valves of 42 metres wide, salt water still flows in and out of the Eastern Scheldt. If a storm becomes dangerous, the valves can be closed. This happens on average twice a year. People who live around the Eastern Scheldt are safe now, as well as nature and the fishing industry. The barrier was ready in 1986.


In the middle of the Eastern Scheldt barrier we find the island of Neeltje Jans. This used to be a sandbank. During the construction of the barrier it was used as a working island. After that it was designed as a nature reserve. The Ir. J. W. Topshuis is located on this island and serves as the control centre for the barrier.



Because of the storm surge barrier, only a quarter of the original amount of water still flows in and out of the Eastern Scheldt. The Oesterdam and the Philipsdam have reduced the original Eastern Scheldt, making it possible to maintain the old tide. At Yerseke the difference between high tide and low tide has decreased from 3.70 to 3.25 metres.


The storm surge barrier is a powerful display of entering or exiting tides: 800 million cubic metres (800,000,000,000,000 litres!) of water flows under the barrier. Also a fascinating spectacle when observed from the edges and the foot of dikes, the harbours, and the plates. You can see it and smell it!


Because the Eastern Scheldt has a funnel shape, the difference in altitude between high tide and low tide is not the same everywhere. At the back of the Eastern Scheldt, on the east side of the Krabbenkreek or Oesteram, the water can’t go anywhere and the tidal difference is much greater than in the Eastern Scheldt near the barrier.


Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, manages all Delta Works, including the Eastern Scheldt barrier. A lot more information can be found on their website.