Today’s is just a test, but in reality it will be a real general test for the MOSE, the system of mobile floodgates to defend Venice from high waters. The presence of highest authorities of the Government, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Paola De Micheli who will be in the lagoon this morning to attend what is called a technical test, testifies it. And it’s very important because for the first time all 78 floodgates of the four mobile barriers located at the bottom of the three harbor ports will be lifted simultaneously: Lido (two sections side by side), Malamocco and Chioggia. Completely isolating, as it should be in case of high tide, the Venice lagoon from the Adriatic sea.
A technical test, in fact. Cinzia Zincone, Provider for Public Works of Veneto, is keen to underline this in an interview with Italiani.it: “It is an important test because for the first time we will simulate a real opening of the MOSE. But there is still a test that will serve to outline the procedures and to see how they can be synchronized. Once this first test has been carried out, the tests will be repeated over and over again to verify their safety and efficacy even in the most critical weather-marine conditions, such as in autumn”.
The presence of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Infrastructure however indicates the importance of this test, perhaps something more than a simple test…
“This is certainly an important milestone because it will give us the opportunity, in particularly severe conditions such as high water on November 12, 2019, to lift all the gates together. If they work, we can operate them in an emergency. It is an important stage but a stage. The MOSE is not finished because the systems have not yet been completed, because the architectural finishes are missing… It still takes time.”
If there will be no hitches (many and varied in nature in recent years) when is the real inauguration of the Mose expected?
We have a financial and timing survey underway. Today’s test should have been done a year and a half ago. In January 2019, in fact, everything had to be ready for this test, raising all the floodgates, albeit with still provisional systems. By June of this year, the MOSE had to be finished with the now definitive plants. Then it took a year and a half to complete the start-up. Needless to say, we are late. Skipped the first two, we are trying to get everything back on schedule with the third deadline. It will be difficult to recover what has been lost. However, it was important to be able to isolate this emergency milestone and give it priority. It remains clear that this does not mean the end of the works.”
For years we have been talking about problems related to the maintenance of such a unique and complex machine. Could they actually be a problem?
“For maintenance there must be a plan that is done in successive steps. When a piece is finished that piece is provided with a maintenance plan. For example, the floodgates, which are the easiest element to consider, must be maintained every five years. For those of Treporti, after five years that they were down, we had foreseen a tender not yet awarded due to an appeal. There may be these hitches, but there is a plan that foresees times and ways for maintenance. A plan that must be updated, because the tests also serve to understand how a certain thing is worn, how the different activities are connected to each other, what the opening frequency must be. The activities are really many”.
“For the moment the costs have been estimated, as is normally done for all works, according to a percentage on the value of the work itself. This figure thus obtained must be verified on various elements. For example, how much the lifting teams cost, how many people are needed, how many shifts, what professionalism… Then there are variables, for example all the communication systems that have evolved in the meantime and have changed the previous estimates a little. We have quantified 70, 80 million per year. But there are still not enough elements. It is difficult to say when something will break. We will certainly think of scheduled maintenance: cleaning, repainting, sand”.
The sand, in fact. It’s creating problems – not in a random place, the name itself says – in the Punta Sabbioni area. Is this actually the case?
“We had foreseen it, so much so that the final project of 2005 also took into account the use of two means for removing sediment. Simplifying, a kind of vacuum cleaner for sand. Over the years it has been seen that this phenomenon is more impressive than what could be calculated then. We are evaluating two integrated approaches. The first more empirical, namely that every six months someone goes down, underwater, to remove these sand deposits. The second could consist of a further work, something more structured to limit the entry and concentration of sand at that specific point”.
What about the problem related to corrosion of materials?
“For now we had set it aside to give priority to emergency lifts. Corrosion, which will not afflict us in the first twenty years but which certainly represents a problem, is probably not attributable to design errors or materials. Partly due to the fact that there are no ventilation systems yet. The expansion of time has favored the onset of some problems. That can and must be resolved, even if there are many bureaucratic and economic hitches.”
What does this experience with MOSE in Venice represent for Dr. Zincone?
I fell so in love with this place, with this job, and also with this work that, thirty years later, it is still at the forefront. We hope above all it will be possible to manage it well, to treasure all that has been learned in these years with a pinch of perspective vision. Thinking about what MOSE could give to Venice in addition to protecting it from high waters. I refer, for example, to the creation of a specific research center that attracts researchers who love the lagoon. To a multidisciplinary university territorially characterized and specifically linked to the lagoon environment. A kind of “scientific” tourism that, if possible, would further qualify the city”.