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How Project Engineering works for nature

A new challenge taken on by Boskalis in 2016 was the restoration of marshland in Lake Markermeer in the centre of the Netherlands, a project serving multiple ecological purposes. In the process of building to promote nature, creating a bird sanctuary and recreation area, the innovative use of fine sediment filtered from the surrounding lake simultaneously improves water quality. Morphologist Thomas Vijverberg was Engineering Manager for the Marker Wadden nature reservation for two years. “The design leaders on the project were landscape architects and ecologists,” Thomas explains. “During the construction phase, my job was to evaluate engineering requirements and ensure that our solutions could make it all possible. Land reclamation projects usually use stable sand, relatively predictable in terms of behaviour. We found a way to use the fine sediment, soft mud and clay from the lake as core building materials.”

It’s great to feel we’re contributing to something that is of such widespread importance

Thomas now works as Deputy Manager of the Hydronamic department of Boskalis’ Dredging Division. There are 18 people in the team, including morphologists and environmental engineers/ecologists evaluating the impact of various projects on eco-systems and enhancing those eco-systems within the project scope. “I’m involved in congresses and conferences on the subject ‘Beneficial use of Sediment’, to gain input for Boskalis projects and also to share in the development of hydraulic engineering and scientific knowledge for ecological and nature preservation programs,” says Thomas. “I’m involved in two international working groups on the beneficial use of sediment, and also give presentations on the Marker Wadden project, for instance at the recent World Dredging Congress in Shanghai.” And of course, he continues to be engaged in the Marker Wadden project until the final handover in 2020 to the client, the Dutch Society for the Preservation of Nature, who together with the Dutch Water Board are committed to the on-going ecological restoration of the area.

“I find it very rewarding to share our experience with others,” Thomas concludes. “It’s useful to tell people how we did it, how we were able to make a technically challenging project such a success. This was a new type of project, a new kind of customer, and we were a new contractor in a new setting. It’s great to feel we’re contributing to something that is of such widespread importance.”