GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — When you think about flooding, where are the first places that come to mind?
Russia probably wasn’t even on your list, but a city called Saint Petersburg was plagued by floods for centuries before finally getting their problem under control.
Saint Petersburg, also known as “Venice of the North”, is spread across 42 marshy islands of the Neva River Delta and rises between 3-7 feet above sea level. The closeness to water level created issues, especially when cyclones in the Baltic Sea pushed water east into the Gulf of Finland.
In 1703, the first building in the city just began construction when floodwaters washed away all the materials at the site. Since then, more than 300 floods have hit, with three catastrophic events where water levels rose more than nine feet and washed out thousands of buildings.
Russia’s government responded by creating the Saint Petersburg Flood Prevention Facility, a colossal complex spanning 16 miles that include 11 dams, six locks, 30 water purification stations, and two navigation channels. Work began in 1979, but the project took over 30 years to complete, and it was not until 2011 that officials declared the $3.85 billion structure operational.
It’s designed to withstand storm surges of over 16 feet, but most of the time the floodgates are left open to allow water and marine life to pass. If a flood is imminent, the gates can be closed within 45 minutes, which they have done more than a dozen times in the past decade.
Fortunately, vulnerable areas of Saint Petersburg have not experienced flooding since construction was completed. Projects like the Saint Petersburg Flood Prevention Facility will hopefully help other at-risk cities adapt to flooding as sea levels around the world continue to rise.