U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and Melanie Schultz van Haegen, the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, have signed an agreement pledging closer cooperation between their two countries on issues related to disaster mitigation, sustainable and integrated planning and water management infrastructure.
Donovan, who also chairs President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, recently visited the Netherlands to see first-hand how that country deals with the persistent threat of North Sea and river flooding in large low-lying developed areas.
“Our two nations have much to learn from each other about finding innovative solutions to age-old shared problems,” said Donovan. “The Dutch are no strangers to the forces of nature and I’m certain we can benefit from their experience in disaster mitigation, infrastructure management and a variety of approaches to sustainable community development and planning.”
“Although the scale of our landscapes differs, New York and the Netherlands have a lot in common,” said Minister Schultz. “Both areas are river deltas. Both areas have estuaries, rivers and water basins that are vulnerable to flooding. The Netherlands has a long history in water management, but I am not coming only to bring Dutch expertise. I am also coming to learn from the American approach.”
Over the generations, Dutch planners created a vast network of dams, floodgates, storm surge barriers and other engineered works to control North Sea storm surge and flooding from the confluence of three major river systems. In recent years, Dutch engineers have also adopted hazard mitigation strategies that allow for controlled flooding in formerly developed areas.
The HUD-Dutch Memorandum of Understanding lays out certain areas of cooperation over the next five years including:
► Creating new community development strategies that place a premium on sustainability and ‘livability’ principles;
► Pursuing infrastructure and water management strategies and climate resilience and preparedness, including new approaches to flood protection systems and ‘building with nature;’ and
► Leveraging private and philanthropic investments to maximize public investments in urban development and long-term disaster mitigation.