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U.S. Joins Dutch In Effort To Study Flood Prevention

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As New York City rebuilds from Hurricane Sandy, the federal government is seeking the advice of the Netherlands, a place that knows plenty about flooding.

On Monday, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan met with Melanie Schultz van Haegen, the Netherlands' minister for Infrastructure and the Environment.

The two signed an agreement in Washington, D.C. to share ideas on how to rebuild the northeast and better protect it against future storms.

As NY1 reported last week, the Netherlands is an expert in mitigating storms and protecting its infrastructure from flooding.

"You all have a depth and understanding of these issues that no one in the world does," Donovan told van Haegen.

Donovan recently visited the Netherlands, and said that every idea should be on the table, from building storm barriers to building waterfront parks that can help absorb storm surges and floods before they reach homes.

"There is no single magic bullet to these questions. It needs to be integrated to how we're rebuilding homes in the Rockaways and how we think about transportation infrastructure on a regional level," said Donovan. "So we will be looking at and studying all of those. And I think we'll continue to get input from the Netherlands on how to combine those solutions."

"For us it is very important to have a very high protection level," van Haegen said.

The agreement lasts five years, and the Dutch also hope to learn from the U.S., particularly on how to implement evacuation plans.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports the information sharing.

"He should certainly talk to everyone about everything," Bloomberg said on Monday.

However, the mayor is skeptical of whether barriers would work.

"Unless you're prepared to build a barrier from the Florida Keys to Newfoundland, I don't know what you're talking about," Bloomberg said. "You could block off the harbor. I think the environmental issues and the expense would be enormous."

The agreement with the Dutch underscores how Washington thinks the rebuilding process is not just a short-term project, but a long-term rethinking of how coastal cities use urban planning to deal with the threat of rising sea levels.

Part of the federal Sandy relief package passed earlier this year aims to advance the discussion.

"I was able to get $20 million put in the Sandy aid to do a comprehensive study, long-term, of the protections New York needs. It could be gates, it could be sea walls," Sen. Charles Schumer said.

It could be solutions that are discovered from a conversation with people who know a thing or two about flooding.

The Dutch minister is traveling to the New York area on Tuesday to begin studying the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

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