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3. THE ZUIDERZEE ACT AND THE ZUIDERZEE WORKS

The piece of legislation paving the way to closing off and draining the Zuiderzee (the Zuiderzee Act) passed into law on 14 June 1918. This starting shot heralded the beginning of the Zuiderzee Works.

The bill was submitted to the Lower House of Parliament by engineer Cornelis Lely, Minister of Water Management, on 9 September 1916. The Zuiderzee Act was endorsed by the Lower House on 21 March 1918. The Upper House approved the act on 13 June and the Zuiderzee Act entered the Statute Books on 14 June 1918, the day it officially became law. The14th of June will be at the core of the 2018 celebrations.

The Zuiderzee Act is known as a framework act, which means no specifics about what will happen, nor when, are given. What the act does set out however is that the Zuiderzee will indeed be closed off and the costs borne by the government. The closing off will be achieved by building a dike ‘running from the coast of Noord-Holland through the Amstel channel to the island of Wieringen and from this island to the Frisian coast at Piaam’. Sections of the sealed off Zuiderzee are to be drained. The government was to decide in due course what sections and in which order the various areas would be pumped out.

The principal stimulation for agreeing the act were that it would create far greater security against floods, create a freshwater basin and deliver much needed new agricultural land. The Zuiderzee Act consists of a number of planned Zuiderzee Works projects drawn from Lely's plan. The 'Dienst der Zuiderzeewerken' and the 'Rijksdienst voor de IJsselmeerpolders' respectively were responsible for the waterworks and for laying out the new land in the polders.

More information regarding the key Zuiderzee Works and its realisation can be found in the header on the Stories Page of this website.

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