Ministry Vromi set to begin expansion of floodgates

POSTED: 11/21/14 11:41 AM

St. Maarten – “It’ll be an impressive site when it’s finished and it should serve us justice in the event of a hurricane or flood,” said Claudius Buncamper, Department Head of Infrastructure Management, during a presentation about the expansion of the A.T. Illidge Road floodgate, which is set to begin Friday, November 20, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. The project, which will be carried out by Windward Roads B.V. under the supervision of the Department of Infrastructure Management, costs approximately NAF 1.98 million. To meet the deadline at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, November 24, Windward Roads’ workers will be busy working around the clock. “We’re talking about a work schedule of 48 hours, with 12 hour rotations of workers,” added Buncamper. During this time the A.T. Illidge Road will be closed. There will be markers in the area to direct traffic to alternate routes.

The A.T. Illidge Road floodgates are one of three components used to manage the water of the Great Salt Pond and the Fresh Pond. At the moment, the floodgates only have a capacity of 5 square meters of water passage during times of flooding. The new floodgates, however, will allow for 10.5 – 12 meters of water passage. All of the water that comes from behind the ball field, Buncamper explained, will be directed to the flood gate, which will open to mitigate flooding. Part of this project is the expansion of the Zagers Gut trench. Once completed, the project will comply with the UNESCO report on water management.

The first stage of the project was to allocate all utilities in the area so as to avoid any disruptions in electricity and water supply in the area. In the weeks leading up to the commencement of this project, the Department of Infrastructure Management has been meeting with the necessary stakeholders, businesses and residents in the A.T. Illidge Road area, to inform them about the expansion project and have their consent and cooperation in this endeavor. The second stage of the project is the commencement of work, which begins today. All of the concrete work necessary for the project will take place from November until February 2015. The installation of the floodgates will take place in February and March. “We hope to have everything in place by February, and then have that last month for tweaking,” said Buncamper. The project is expected to be completed in April 2015.

To ensure that businesses in the area do not suffer interruption during the expansion work of the floodgates, a passage has been created near Sunny Foods, which will accommodate business owners, clients and residents alike. The department is looking into creating a walkway for pedestrians; however, Buncamper stated that this will only be done once it is deemed safe for people to walk near the construction site.

As part of this project, the road deck will be removed and shifted. On January 12, new decks will be put in place to provide access to the businesses in the area. The road will be ready to be used by the end of February, as “it takes time for concrete that thick to cure.” There will be a full trench under the road. The walls and floor of the passage are currently being dug, explained Buncamper, and are expected to be finished by December 20, “before we go on Christmas vacation.” The department decided to use straight walls, rather than a soft U-shaped wall for the retaining walls of the trench/passage, so as to avoid water running over the barrier and flooding businesses and homes in the area.

There will be 4 gates in total, which are controlled mechanically, but, if necessary, can be controlled manually. The gates, along with 14 culverts, are being made in Delft, the Netherlands. The gates are expected to be delivered late January, early February.

When asked by this newspaper about the ecological impact this project will have on the Great Salt Pond and Fresh Pond, Buncamper assured that these will not be affected in any form or fashion. “We haven’t moved many mangroves. The only species affected would be the tilapia, which are invasive. Other than that, I don’t see any environmental aspects coming into play here.”

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