Closing off the Lauwers Sea

Dam

After the disastrous storm in the southwest of the Netherlands during the night of 31st January and 1st February 1953 and the Christmas floods in 1954, great haste was made to close off the Lauwers Sea. The Frisians wanted a dam to be built, while the fishermen of Zoutkamp and the conservationists were against the idea and wanted the sea defences to be strengthened. In the end the government decision was: 'Drying out the Lauwers Sea'. In addition to the construction of a 13-kilometre long dam, discharge sluices and a lock had to be built. At low water in the Wadden Sea the sluices can discharge the excess rainwater from Lauwersmeer. The discharge sluices are closed when water levels in the Wadden Sea rise or when a storm is forecast.

National Park

The closure was a major piece of interference. Zoutkamp lost its heart and the fishing harbour had to move to Lauwersoog. Flags were flown at half-mast even when Queen Juliana visited the village on 23rd May 1969. A beautiful section of mudflats was lost. And yet both friend and foe were amazed at the rate at which nature turned the new Lauwersmeer into a fresh area of natural beauty with an international allure. Within thirty years it was worthy of the title of National Park, a mighty achievement!

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