NSF PIRE Coastal Flood Risk Reduction Travel Program
Application for Field Research in the Netherlands 2017

The NSF PIRE Coastal Flood Risk Reduction Program is pleased to offer funding* for students at participating universities – Texas A&M University (Galveston and College Station campuses), Rice University, and Jackson State University – to travel to the Netherlands from May 31 to June 15, 2017 to study issues related to flood mitigation. This international opportunity will enable both undergraduate and graduate students to enhance and extend their current educational and research experience by participating in group research activities and interacting with flood experts in the Netherlands. Students from diverse disciplines, including:  engineering, planning, economics, hydrology, biology, architecture, and computational hydraulics, who are interested in flood risk reduction are encouraged to apply. Funded students will work on one of four case studies in the Netherlands to their choice. This program provides a unique opportunity to participate in interdisciplinary research with applicants from diverse backgrounds and academic levels. Participants will develop an array of teamwork and leadership skills.  

For the 2017 Program, four case study areas have been chosen (see the map below). An overarching research theme has been identified for each case study area. Applicants should choose a relevant case study area and submit a Research Plan that fits within the research theme of the case study (Further instructions are provided in the application package).

Descriptions of four case study areas are provided below. Please read the descriptions thoroughly before filling out an application.

Applicants should submit their completed application packet by February 8, 2017 to pire@tamug.edu

*Funding covers one round-trip flight and accommodation, meals, and transportation in the Netherlands. The schedule is non-negotiable; funded participants will travel together.

NSF-PIRE 2017 Case Study #1: Lake IJssel – Almere / IJburg

Research Theme: “New Towns Coping with Flood Risk”

This case study focuses on exploring flood resilience in new towns in the Netherlands from various perspectives, including: urban planning, landscape architecture and infrastructure design, civil engineering, and governance. The results of this case study will help identify planning and flood management strategies for the development of resilient communities in the Houston-Galveston Metropolitan Area.

While many metropolitan areas and surrounding new towns in the U.S. are dealing with escalating damages from flooding, their contemporaries in the Netherlands have effectively mitigated and reduced flood impacts despite high exposure to both coastal and inland flooding. The Dutch not only set the standard for flood risk reduction infrastructure and adaptation strategies, but their cities also serve as ‘posterchildren’ for what a disaster resilient cities should look like. The cities of IJburg and Almere are new towns supporting Amsterdam, the capital of The Netherlands. These two new towns share Lake IJssel, but they were built based on two different strategies. IJburg is made up of artificial lands which have been constructed using dredge material (elevating), and Almere is located on reclaimed land . Looking at this area will provide a better understanding of various flood-resilient development strategies.

Here are some examples of Research Questions (RQ) that could (but not must) serve as a guide:

RQ 1: What are planning/management factors of resilient new towns?
RQ 2: What types of buildings would be resilient to floods?
RQ 3: What kinds of critical flood risk reduction infrastructures should be included in new towns?
RQ 4: What are the differences between flood-resilient new towns in the Netherlands and flood-prone, newly developed suburban area in the US?
RQ 5: How have adaptive capacity, environmental, and institutional factors contributed to disaster resilience of new towns?
RQ 6: What adaptive strategies are adopted in flood-resilient new towns to cope with their growing population?
RQ7: What are the major difference between two towns in development strategies and what are the pros and cons?

NSF-PIRE 2017 Case Study #2: Sand Engine / Noordwijk

Research Theme: “Coastal Engineering with Nature”

This case study focuses on vegetated coastal dunes in the context of natural and nature-based features (NNBF). NNBF have gained popularity in coastal engineering studies because they aim to provide increased levels of protection against storm impacts (e.g., storm surge, wave attack, wind forcing), while simultaneously maintaining and/or enhancing the coastal ecosystem and serving as aesthetic features within the coastal landscape. The use of NNBF has emerged as an “Engineering with Nature” alternative or supplement to conventional engineered solutions.

Traditional approaches used to protect urban, commercial and industrial assets in coastal areas have included the construction of hardened structures such as storm surge barriers, seawalls, revetments, groins and detached breakwaters. However, these “conventional” engineering practices need to be implemented not just with the primary protection function in mind, but also fit into the natural fabric of the coastal ecosystem to produce multiple benefits. Engineered dune systems are typical examples of this concept. Comparing and contrasting pristine and engineered vegetated dune systems in the Netherlands with those along the upper Texas coast will help to better understand their protective functionality and value in coastal protection schemes. The intended locations for this project include dune systems at the Dutch Sand Motor near The Hague (engineered) and Noordwijk (natural) as well as Galveston (engineered) and Follets Island (natural).

Here are some examples of Research Questions (RQ) that could (but not must) serve as a guide:

RQ 1: How do pristine and engineered vegetated dunes differ between the Netherlands and the upper Texas coast; how are they being used in coastal protection schemes?
RQ 2: What are the differences in meteorological forcing mechanisms (i.e. wind, waves, storm surge) impacting the Dutch and Texas coastlines, respectively; how does that influence the makeup, design, and effectiveness of vegetated coastal dunes as NNBF?
RQ 3: How can NNBF best be implemented in numerical modeling approaches intended to simulate coastal geomorphology changes; how do variations in coastal vegetated dunes between the Netherlands and Texas affect numerical model implementation?
RQ 4: (How) does Coastal Engineering with Nature in general and/or vegetated dunes specifically, differ between The Netherlands and Texas; how are NNBF in general and vegetated dunes specifically incorporated in coastal planning and management?

NSF-PIRE 2017 Case Study #3 Rotterdam Port & City

Research Theme: “Vulnerable Infrastructure”

This case study examines flood risk and related consequences for infrastructure networks in the Rotterdam Port and City area and compares them with similar issues faced by the Houston Port and City. In both locations, unembanked areas near the river (or bayou) contain critical infrastructure, along with residences and businesses. These areas are subject to regular flooding from rainfall-runoff, high river flows, and coastal storm surge. In addition, these areas are expected to become even more vulnerable to flooding in future due to sea level rise, more frequent and intense precipitation, and increased river discharge. However, the physical characteristics of the two areas differ significantly. The sub-surface consists of clay, peat, and sand in Rotterdam, and clay in Houston, providing an interesting comparison. The current and future hydraulic boundary conditions should be further examined.

This case study includes a focus on the vulnerability of above ground storage tanks (ASTs) to both river and coastal flooding. These large cylindrical structures are used to store hazardous materials and many of these ASTs are located in or near flood-prone areas with limited protective measures in place. While a recent study has shown that the ASTs in Rotterdam are not vulnerable to hydrostatic effects under current flood conditions, ASTs could still be vulnerable to water-driven debris impacts.

Current research into the vulnerabilities of ASTs within the Port of Houston will serve as a comparative case.
Here are some examples of Research Questions (RQ) that could (but not must) serve as a guide to further development.

RQ 1: What are the consequences of climate change or extreme weather on the area; how does it influence the various infrastructure networks present in that area?
RQ 2: What are the most important and fragile infrastructure components?
RQ 3: Why are these components fragile and how can they be made less vulnerable?
RQ 4: How is post-disaster debris management planned and implemented?
RQ 5: Which types of debris could be present in the Port of Rotterdam during flood events; What is the structural behavior of ASTs under water-driven debris impacts?
RQ 6: What policy or planning instruments can be used or developed to decrease vulnerability of residential areas near industrial ports to flooding?

NSF-PIRE 2017 Case Study #4: Nijmegen, Waal River

Research Theme: “Room for the River”

This case study examines the Room for the River project in Nijmegen from various perspectives. The goal of the Dutch Room for the River Program is to increase the storage capacity of the river and its floodplain in order to manage high river flows and decrease water levels in urban areas. At more than thirty locations in the Netherlands, a new approach has been implemented: instead of continuing to increase the height and size of the levees, measures are taken to give the river space to flood safely. Moreover, these measures are designed in such a way that they improve the environmental quality of the immediate surroundings.

Between the cities of Nijmegen and Lent, the Waal River makes a sharp bend. The river is very narrow at this point and during extreme high water levels, this location acts as a bottleneck inhibiting flows and increasing flood vulnerability. The Room for the River project has solved this problem by moving the levee at Lent 350 meters landward. An ancillary channel was dredged in the floodplain to help drain the river during extremely high water. This intervention creates more effective flood protection for the area behind the levee. Relocating the levee and dredging an ancillary channel has created a long island in the river. A unique river park was formed by the combination of the island and the channel. A 1.6 km long slanted quayside forms the new flood control, together with the green banks on the east side. Although the Room for the River project is one successful example of flood management, its widespread use has been challenging due to the different engineering, social, environmental, and governmental issues.

Here are some examples of Research Questions (RQ) that could (but not must) serve as a guide to further development.

RQ 1: How has the Room for the River program affected the vicinity environmentally?
RQ 2: What kinds of stakeholders have been involved and what were their roles?
RQ 3: What should be considered to adopt the Room for the River initiative in Houston?
RQ 4: What would be engineering challenges to apply the Room for the River initiative in Houston?
RQ 5: How does the Room for the River program affect ecological resilience?

PIRE application form

If you have any questions regarding the application, please contact Yoon Lee, program coordinator at pire@tamug.edu

International students must check whether you need a Schengen visa to travel to the Netherlands.

For questions about the Center:

Dr. Sam Brody
Ocean and Coastal Studies Building
1001 Texas Clipper Rd
Galveston, TX 77551
Bldg. 3029, Room 366
Phone (409) 740-4939
Fax (409) 740-4429

For media/meeting coordination:

Sarah Reinert
Communication Coordinator
Phone (817) 888-0002

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