Preparing for the 10,000-Year Storm:
LSU Students Visit Netherlands for Flood Control Education


With the third anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita rapidly approaching, flood protection continues to be of critical interest to the public. Bruce Sharky, professor of landscape architecture at LSU, recently took 15 students to the Netherlands for three weeks to study how the Dutch deal with flooding and windblown storm surge not unlike what occurs from hurricanes.

“The Dutch are renowned for their innovations in flood control,” said Sharky. “The last really big storm they had was in 1953 – it killed almost 3,000 people. Within 20 days, they had a plan that would protect them from a ‘10,000-year flood.’” By contrast, he said that our current plans for New Orleans prepare the city for only a 100-year flood.

Sharky and the students worked closely with the Delft University of Technology, which hosted a four-day workshop for the students, allowing them to develop futuristic flood protection plans that could be implemented along the coast of Holland. Students also were able to meet with flood-control agencies and gain a first-hand perspective on state-of-the-art technology employed by the Netherlands to keep their country safe.

“This course gives students the opportunity to appreciate other cultures and achieve professional growth through learning from the experience of others involved in the planning and design of neighborhoods and communities with flood water management in mind,” said Sharky. “Students will learn alternate spatial planning strategies from the Dutch experience, preparing them to participate in the future of developing flood protection for communities in which they will be working.”

In addition to their intensive, jam-packed itinerary, students were also required to keep a journal filled with sketches and design ideas as well as write a 1,500-word paper on what they learned from the program and how it could be applied in coastal Louisiana.

Of course, Sharky also made sure the students took away more than just technical knowledge. “When you take students to Europe, they always think of it as a vacation, and most are really surprised at how much work is involved,” said Sharky. “So, throughout the course, we also fit in some culture: operas, museums, theater, things along those lines. They also had a free day or two to explore Amsterdam on their own.”

For more information about flood control in the Netherlands or the details of this trip, contact Bruce Sharky, 225-578-1441 or

Ashley Berthelot | Editor
Jim Zietz | Senior Photographer
LSU Office of Public Affairs | Summer 2008