Will Moses’ Sea Gates Save Venice?

“To preserve Venice has always been to interfere in the natural course of events.” Dominic Standish

I love Venice. I love the authenticity, uniqueness, and historical impact of this city built on pilings in a lagoon. Venice is amazing, and I mean exactly that. There is nowhere else in Italy I have traversed that even hints of what Venice encapsulates. I love everything about the ancient Basilica of St. Marks and the Doge’s Palace to the maze of winding streets lined with shops and cafes interspersed with surprising little piazzas. I even love the dip and sway of the stone streets and squares that testify to the patter of many feet over the centuries. Venice is like no other.

Venice is the worlds most intriguing floating museum…

Today, as most of us realize, Venice is threatened by the converging Adriatic sea. Water levels are rising, and floods are common during the winter months. Every year it is worse, and although the Venetians are experts at maneuvering themselves through the watery streets, it leaves a dwindling hope. The frequency of high tides keep getting worse. With every flood the water’s edge and building foundations weaken.

St. Mark’s Square steeped in sea water

So, how do you fight with nature? The floods, which last a couple of hours before receding back into the lagoon, reaches an average of over 4 feet on the streets.

Venice flood

There is an answer, for the next 100 years at least. It’s called the Mose (MOdulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico) or Experimental Electromechanical Module project. You may have heard of it. The 5.4 billion flood barrier project has been in the planning and implementation stages for a number of years. It consists of huge water gates inserted into concrete foundations on the floor of the Venetian lagoon. These gates will have the capacity to protect Venice from up to 10 ft. tides. Three inlets where water enters and exits the lagoon will be manned with these gates and will be operated separately to manage the ‘acqua alta,’ high tides, as needed.

Venice Lido inlet MOSE Gate
The Mose control center is located inside a converted chapel in the old Venice Arsenal. Those operating the gates will raise them for only a couple of hours at a time before putting them back to rest. For now there are up to 9 operators, but hope is to eventually have the station manned 24 hours a day. When there will be a flood, a siren will go off in Venice alerting the people so they can make preparations such as wearing boots, protecting shops, and so on.

According to academic and author Dominic Standish, “Mose is continuing in the tradition of the Venetian Republic, which intervened in the lagoon to protect against natural threats. Ancient Venetians built sea walls and diverted two major rivers – these were huge engineering projects,” he explains. “The Venetian Republic suffered more from flooding than we do now. People were regularly killed by flooding. They had difficulty in predicting it. Venice is much better protected now than it has been for a long time.”

Venice MOSE how it works

The concrete foundations have been lowered in place on the lagoon floor, only awaiting the gates to be inserted.

St. marks squareThe good news is that the biodiversity of the lagoon will not be affected since the gates will only be up a few hours at a time. At a cost of 5.4 billion for the entire project, it is expected to eventually prove to be cost-effective through reduction of repair costs due to flooding.

Once the gates are up and running, time will tell just how effective they will be. But for now it is the only hope of Venice.

I will finish with a quote by Keats, “If the thought of Venice sinking captures the imagination, then it should be as a wakeup call to save the city as an essential basis of the civilization we cherish. The world owes huge debts to Venice, including modern systems of democratic government and the printed book.”

Viva Venezia!

What are your thoughts on these giant sea gates? I would love to know…please share below.

Venice Maritime Power in EuropeFor more information, please click on Inside Venice’s Bid to Hold Back the Tide.