MoSE, yet another problem: water infiltrating the tunnels


One hundred million is the cost to repair the many unresolved troubles with the dams, which await the real test in rough seas

16 July 2020

By Alberto Vitucci

[Ed. Note: On July 10 MoSE was ‘inaugurated’ in the presence of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. The entire barrier raised successfully, though several dams were unable to lower back down due to sand and debris. The test was hailed as a success, but this story recounts the formidable to-do list ahead before MoSE can can be called finished. What is striking is for how long many of these issues has gone resolved – and how often they have appeared in stories here.]

VENEZIA. Water is infiltrating the caissons under the lagoon, a worrying development, which was pointed out two years ago. Now it has reappeared. Extensive moisture stains have been discovered by technicians in the areas of the main tunnel of MoSE at Treporti, where the valves and controls are. Saltwater is entering from the sea through the small fissures in the concrete caissons.

One of the many problems that must be resolved before being able to say that MoSE is finished and ready to function. A technical meeting was held the other day at palazzo Dieci Savi, office of the Superintendent of Public Works. The open issues were discussed, which have for some time been reported by the project manager and Consorzio Venezia Nuova, and await urgent financing (at least 100 million) to be addressed.


The problem of corrosion found inside some elements of the hinges remains open. This is the heart of the system which allows the dams to move. A bid on restoration for 34 million Euro was put out last year by commissioners at the Consorzio. This is now blocked by countersuits among businesses. It is a question of ascertaining the reason for the corrosion and intervening. According to the technicians the lifespan of the hinges has been reduced by a quarter.


All of the valves in the dams must be replaced. They have been found to be defective, as did some instruments which also delayed the raising of the barriers on the inauguration day, last Friday. Broken tubes and some flaps damaged in prior tests have already been replaced.


This is one of the sore points of the project. A scandal within a scandal. The lock that was supposed to allow access ships access to the port if the dams were closed cost 330 million Euro. It was immediately damaged by the sea and has never worked. Here too reciprocal accusations and litigation over responsibility for the damage, from the Consorzio to Mantovani, to the designers at Technital, the same who designed MoSe. The work for repairing the damage was contracted to Cimolai for 31 million Euro. However, even once repaired, the lock cannot guarantee access to the Port for cruise ships.


The real issue of the MoSE system is maintenance. Costs were underestimated in the design phase (set at 20 million a year). This has now climbed to 100-110 million. The new Agency will have to oversee this, which the government should approve soon, as announced by Minister De Micheli and Undersecretary Andrea Martella. There will need to be a guarantee for this sum every year to manage the operation, and to clean the sand from and fix the paint of every dam (one per month). Among the few certainties is that the work will not be done at Arsenale.


Completion of the work will require tests in conditions of high wind and rough waters, in order to exclude the possibility of anomalous behavior from the barriers in these conditions – such as those of November 12, 2019.

Source: La Nuova Venezia

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