St Petersburg Flood Protection Barrier
Due to its low elevation, flooding has plagued St Petersburg since the city was founded in 1703. It is particularly prone to fast-forming destructive storm surge floods and has flooded approximately once a year for the past 300 years. In the past 30 years, St Petersburg has flooded twice annually, indicating an increase in flood frequency.
In light of the City’s flooding history and cultural significance, the Soviet Union elected to build the Barrier to provide protection to the 5 million residents of St Petersburg and to minimise the risk of economic disruption. The design entails a 25.4 kilometre embankment across Neva Bay, which embraces the island of Kotlin. Specifically, the Barrier includes eleven rock and earth embankments, six discharge sluices to accommodate the Neva outflow and two navigation channels equipped with closing gates. Each of the six sets of water sluices is the size of the Thames Barrier and has 10 or 12 individual gates which are weighted with concrete to crush through ice during winter. Each gate is 24 meters wide and 4 meters to 6.5 meters high, bringing the total combined sluice gate to a width of 1536 meters which can be used to block flood water from entering the City.
Construction of the Barrier commenced in 1980, but was stopped in 1987 due to funding problems and public concerns that the Barrier was exacerbating pollution in Neva Bay. In 1990, following several environmental studies, an International Commission concluded that the impact of completing the Barrier on Neva Bay was environmentally neutral and recommended completion of the project but there was insufficient funding to resume full-scale construction. In 1994, the City of St Petersburg asked the EBRD to consider financing the completion of the Barrier. In response to this request, the Bank organised a pre-feasibility study of the project in 1995 which concluded that there was strong economic justification for completion of the Barrier but that recovery of the capital costs would not be possible and that it was too expensive to finance the project from the City’s budget, at which point the Bank determined that sovereign financing for the project would be required.
In 2000 the EBRD agreed to consider the project in light of its then emphasis on increasing its profile as a financier of Russian infrastructure and the Russian Government’s strong commitment to the project. Moreover, the Russian Government has requested that the Barrier be included in the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP), which has led to the involvement of Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) and European Investment Bank (EIB), as co-financiers. Construction of the completion works for the Barrier sarted in September 2004, co-financed by the EBRD, NIB, EIB and supported by a number of donors including Japan, the Netherlands, UK and the European Commission and with the majority of funds provided by the Russian Federation. The barrier was substantially complete and operating by 31 December 2011.
On 26-28 December 2011 all the gates were closed when flood warnings were issued. The City was protected against a forecast flood level of 281cm above normal, the most severe event for over 50 years. This was the first major flood to have been averted by the barrier which would otherwise have caused substantial flooding.
The barrier is now being operated with staff from the Barrier Authority supplemented by staff from the contractor who have been awarded a contract for operations and maintenance of the barrier until 2014. The system requires continuing future development to improve the accuracy and robustness of forecasts and operating systems.
At a glance
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