Archive for MOSE

Sep
13

MOSE again, still, forever

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If it weren’t for the lagoon, maybe people wouldn’t care quite so much about Venice. Interesting thought to ponder. But the lagoon would probably be better off without Venice, because then it wouldn’t be abused and tormented to make sure that Venice won’t have some water in the streets sometimes.

What everybody loves about Venice (among many things) is how old it is.  And that is indeed a thing to love.  I imagine all those amazing designers and builders and artists working away centuries ago, believing that their handiwork would last for, oh, maybe ever.  And because they were first-rate craftsmen, it turns out that most of them were right.

You might say that MOSE is also going to last forever, but not in a good way.  I don’t write updates on the continuing calamity that is the world’s most preposterous project because I’m bored by the mendacity, magnitude and monotony of the problems.  Everything has gone, is going, and will be going, wrong with this thing until Jesus comes back, so updates are pointless.  In fact, I’ve begun to suspect that the whole thing started with a bunch of drunk people sitting around one summer afternoon on some rich person’s yacht or private mountain, who decided to break the boredom by inventing a game in which the winner is the one who finds a way to waste the most money on the most pointless enterprise in the history of the world.  If you can call it “winning.”  Bonus points for environmental damage, or if somebody dies.

But the latest headlines have barged into my brain and made me think about it again, if only briefly, and my thoughts are not lovely.  I can sum it up for you:  Yet more things have been discovered to be screwed up, and fixing them will cost lots more money.  This has become the refrain of the Marching Song of the MOSE Squadron, while the bass singers set the jaunty rhythm “Money for me, money for me, money for me…..”  And as you read, consider (as I have) that if I had done the calculations, it’s obvious they would have come out all wrong.  But I am not a civil engineer (I’m hardly civil at all) and I do not have a piece of paper from some institute which implies that I have studied how to do this work.  But we must face the fact that the perpetrators of all this have such certificates.

Is there something about water that just baffles engineers in Venice? They ought to be experts, yet somehow the smallest details are just left unfixed. One might say that the flow of the water and/or the position of the grate of this fountain don’t really HAVE to match up, but then one considers the possibility that the designer was later hired to work on MOSE.

Here’s the headline on September 

MOSE, the gate of the lock at Malamocco has to be redone.

I will translate the main points in this and the following article:

The gate on the lock basin (“conca“) at Malamocco has to be redone.  After the 400 million euros already spent, another 20 million will have to be invested for the “lunata,” the semi-circular breakwater shaped like the moon which protects the ships from waves and current as they position themselves to enter or as they exit.

Here is the inlet between the Adriatic (to the right) and the lagoon (to the left). It’s sort of like two boxers facing off  before the gong. Clockwise from “lunata” we find: The construction yard of the caissons for MOSE, the tiny hamlet of Santa Maria del Mare, the lock to permit shipping to pass when the floodgates are closed in the inlet, the nature park at the Alberoni, the inlet which will be blocked by the raised floodgates in the case of exceptional high tide, and the Alberoni seawall.

The lock, you may recall, was dug to permit the passage of ships between the Adriatic and the lagoon whenever the floodgates are raised.  But evidently every good idea contains the seeds of its own destruction, if you play it right.  It was constructed in 2007 by the Consorzio Venezia Nuova (by means of the mega-company Mantovani) and designed by Technital ten years ago, which Vitucci recalls as  “the golden age of MOSE, when money poured in without limits and without too much control.”  But even then the design was clearly flawed, for which almost everybody involved is now paying the consequences.

Inadequate.  Even though the breakwater extends 1300 meters (4,265 feet), its basin is too small for the latest generation of container ships, making it too risky for the big ships to attempt to enter the lock.  Other than that, the “mobile” parts of the lock — the gates — cannot function because the water exerts too much pressure.  The persons making those calculations might have been interrupted by a phone call, or the arrival of a pizza; anyway, it doesn’t work. This problem was discovered in 2015 when the gate gave way in the first storm.  Urgent interventions are now in the hands of a Belgian company.

But not to worry!  The president of the Magistrato alle Acque, Roberto Linetti, says that fixing it will only cost 18 million euros because the foundations are still good.  And meanwhile, they’ll be able to add a few meters to allow the ships to pass. So you see?  In the end, it was a good thing the gate didn’t work.

Infinite.  Or “unfinished.”  Or “unfinishable,” perhaps.  What now bears the tired title of the “MOSE scandal” consists, as Vitucci lists it, of: “Bribes and consultants, off-the-books payments and always-positive evaluations rendered by friendly experts, extra costs due to the lack of competition and the necessity of accumulating “black” (untraceable) funds to pay the bribes.  But also there have been obvious errors, such as the lock. What was intended to be a structure to prevent penalizing the port activity when the floodgates were up has been shown to be, at the end, the umpteenth useless big project.

Waste.  The lock is far from being the only problem — there are the collateral “major works” connected to MOSE, each one of which is its own little one-act tragedy. The “jack-up,” the large “ship” which cost 50 million euros for transporting and moving the gates constructed by Comar and Mantovani, remains anchored at the Arsenal and has never been used because it doesn’t function, despite the repairs that have been made. There is also the damage to the seawall at San Nicolo’ on the Lido, which collapsed a few days after it had been tested.  Tens of millions of euros thrown into the sea, as Vitucci (and probably many others) puts it.  Damages will need to be paid for all those, too, but it’s not clear by whom.

This is the “jack-up.” Big, expensive, impressive, it makes no pretense of working.

But wait!  There’s more!  Is anyone wondering how the various components are managing to resist encrustation and mold?  I can tell you!  But before I do, pause to marvel at the astonishing presence of salt in seawater, not to mention algae and all sorts of cretures which insist on attaching themselves to things. Who could possibly have known, or even guessed at random, that the Adriatic contains salt and water?

The headline in the Nuova Venezia on September 7, 2017, on a story written by Alberto Vitucci:

Mold and degradation, the MOSE gates are already blocked. 

“Big works = big mafias.” I don’t usually agree with graffiti, but this sums up the situation with admirable clarity.

The encrustation is increasing; the paint is already old.  And without electricity it’s impossible to raise the barriers.  Mold and degradation in the corridors of the caissons beneath the lagoon.  And the gates, exposed for six months to the weather and salt at Santa Marina del Mare, have to be repainted.

The installations.  The latest problem is the delay in building the electric plant to raise the gates.  MOSE needs energy to raise the gates because it doesn’t exploit the natural energy of the sea and waves.  … Unlike the sequence of events at San Nicolo’, where the power plant was installed first, at Malamocco it was decided to position the gates on the lagoon bottom before the power plant was built.  Result: For several months the gates have lain on the bottom but it’s impossible to test raising them.

Corrosion and fouling. The first inspections revealed corrosion and encrustation.  The lack of electricity has prevented the correct ventilation underwater where the cables and systems pass, not to mention the workers.  The walls are covered with a layer of mold 5 centimeters (2 inches) deep. MOSE is a system conceived to remain underwater, and without maintenance, the problems multiply, such as the corrosion of the hinges (of the gates) that was reported several months ago. What to do? The Consorzio Venezia Nuova announced a competition for bids on the construction of the systems.  Two groups won, the Abb Comes of Taranto and the Abb Idf of Brindisi. But the proposal to realize some temporary systems to move the gates wasn’t approved.  It would have cost 14 million euros, so just let the gates sit underwater, blossoming.

Several months ago, the gates underwater at Treporti began to show accumulations of barnacles, mussels, and crabs — sea-dwelling creatures which were not exactly unknown before the work started.

The paint is peeling. Because there is no electricity or apparatus to install them, the 30 gates that were supposed to be lowered into the water have been waiting for months on the construction site of the caissons.  The delay is due to the non-functioning of the “jack-up.” (Some gates were constructed in Croatia and brought across the Adriatic from Split.)  During these months, the workers have battled the weather and the seagulls, which have begun to nest in the gates, as follows…..

MOSE: Even the seagulls are stripping the paint.

Information from the article by Alberto Vitucci, La Nuova Venezia, 29 April 2017

It turns out that the beached (so to speak) gates sitting at the construction site are a very attractive home for nesting seagulls, sort of like LeFrak City for waterfowl.  But their guano is damaging the paint, and eventually corrodes the metal too.  The birds stab at the peeling paint with their beaks, trying to strip it off (boredom? sport? snacks?).  Protective tarpaulins have been spread over the gates, but large spaces have been left open for work on the hinges, so ….

Bring on the scarecrows! (I mean gulls): Deafening recordings of frightening sounds.  They tried an amped-up donkey braying because an ethologist said that birds are afraid of it.  Birds, sure, but not gulls, who fear almost nothing anymore.  Next, a high-volume dog growling. Nope. In the end, the only thing that works is a cannon firing blanks, so cannonfire is now periodically heard in the lagoon, followed by the wild flapping of hundreds and hundreds of wings of birds that soon return.

How long will all this be going on?

The timetable.  According to the latest schedule — after deadlines passed from 2011 to 2014, then 2017, then 2018 — the work will be finished by 2021.  Four (or five or ten?) more years of astonishing stories to come.  And I haven’t even said anything about the subsidence of the lagoon bottom beneath the caissons due to the powerful force of the tides (tides? there are tides in the sea? what??) which appear to be distorting the position of the gates…..

Life on earth requires many adjustments. Shown here is a reasonable solution to a problem. I have no images of a reasonable solution to any of MOSE’s problems.

 

 

Categories : MOSE, Problems
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Jun
16

MOSE: drastic surgery

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This is also the lagoon.

This is also the lagoon.

I promise that I will not transform this blog into the daily bulletin from the MOSE hecatomb.

But two days ago (June 14), at the last meeting of the council of ministers, the government did something so extreme — and indisputably necessary and long overdue — that I want at least to make it known.

They abolished the Magistrato alle Acque.  An entire government agency with 500 years of history is no more.  Yesterday it was, today it is not.

Beginning in October, its responsibilities will be “absorbed” by the Inter-regional Director of Public Works of the three contiguous regions of the Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, and Trentino Alto Adige.

Of course this is good, but I feel sick at heart.  Not only because of the annihilation of one of the last tiny links to the Venetian Republic, but because a gesture of this magnitude shows all too vividly the extent of the rot.

People who occasionally had to request a permit for temporary use of a certain stretch of lagoon have long been aware that the Magistrato was as swampy as Reelfoot Lake.  It wouldn’t have been the first city agency whose functionaries accepted the occasional guerdon for speeding up the processing of requests.  I’m not saying the employees of the Magistracy did such a thing.  I’m just saying that if they did, they wouldn’t have been alone.

The MOSE work has made the tides stronger and faster, so the fish are having to work harder at their annual migrations.

The MOSE work has made the tides stronger and faster, which has affected plants, fish and, I presume, also birds. But the floods of water are nothing compared to the floods of payoffs.

The Magistracy of the Waters was established in 1501; it was specifically charged with overseeing the health and security of the lagoon, and any action required — digging, land reclamation, maintenance — had to have its approval.

Care of the lagoon required care of its tributary rivers, too.  Venetian engineers diverted the Po River, for God’s sake; between 1600 and 1604, innumerable men with shovels and wheelbarrows cut Italy’s greatest river at Porto Viro and turned it southward.  There were many reasons for this, some of them political, some economic, but it was also time to limit the amount of sediment that was filling up the lagoon.  The Venetian Republic knew that the care of the lagoon was its primary life insurance.

“Lagoon” (laguna) is a Venetian word, by the way.

But the Magistrato was populated by many individuals who were not all of the same stripe, and in 1678, human nature having demonstrated its impressive dimensions, the Venetian Senate created a group of inquisitors to conduct the legal cases against those accused of having damaged the lagoon.  There must be some diabolical hothouse somewhere that causes little tiny crook seedlings to sprout, then sells them to the Magistrato alle Acque where, in its own special microclimate, they can flourish and grow to be big tall leafy crooks.

In fact, I now learn that this is the third time that the Magistrato has been “suppressed,” as the headlines put it, though it’s the first occasion where the reason was crime.

In 1808, during the brief but eventful French domination of the city (1806-1814), the Viceroy Eugene Beauharnais put an end to it, for reasons I haven’t yet discovered. It didn’t take long for it to become evident that this was an error, the neglect having contributed to an assortment of watery damage.  When the Austrians took over for the first time (1816-1848), they quickly re-established the Magistrato, reorganized it, renamed some departments, applied a coat of varnish and it was good to go again.

In 1866, when Venice and the Veneto became part of the new nation of Italy, the Magistrato was annulled again, and again a series of hydraulic disasters showed what serious consequences could come from indifference to the state of the waterways.

The Magistrato was reformulated for the third time in 1907 as part of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, and its authority expanded to cover the entire hydrological basin of northeast Italy — an enormous watershed of rivers, lakes, and other lagoons stretching from Mantova to Trieste.  Total area of its authority was some 40,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles).  So when we talk about the misfeasance of the Magistrato, we’re not talking about some little local entity that turned out to have just a few bad apples.

I very sincerely hope that Cuccioletta and Piva, in their respective cells awaiting trial, are happy.  Because I’m not, and neither are a whole bunch of other people.

This is a relatively recent lion, and he looks like he's had more than enough of all this.

This is a relatively recent lion, and he looks like he’s had more than enough of all this.

 

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Jun
13

MOSE: Worse than acqua alta

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The lagoon -- so beautiful, and so abused.

The lagoon — so beautiful, and so abused.

On June 4, the dam broke.

I don’t mean the ingeniously devised dam (a/k/a “MOSE”) still under construction, which is formed by mobile barriers intended to block high water from entering Venice for a few hours every so often.  I mean the dam that was the financing of the project.

No one is really surprised.  Any public work budgeted at 5 billion euros (6.5 billion dollars) is a monumental petri dish for cultivating corruption.  But what has stunned just about everybody is the sheer scope of it all.  I’ve heard some people say they don’t believe it will ever become completely untangled — names which were given code numbers, foreign accounts, fake receipts, fake financial reports, fake banks, even.  All of this created and maintained by the Consorzio Venezia Nuova, the consortium which had sole power over the administration of the work, the awarding of contracts, and every detail of who and what was involved in the project.  Taken altogether, some estimate that the Consorzio paid out 1 billion euros in gifts, favors and graft.

The Northeast, especially members of the Northern League, has spent years sneering at the waste and crime south of Rome, past Naples, deep into the heart of Sicily.  The North wanted to secede from the feckless, blood-sucking South. Marches and vigils were held in the “fight against the mafia.”

The MOSE logo is very clever.

The MOSE logo is very clever.

But no more is the voice of the sneer heard in the land, at least not in the Veneto.

News of the arrest of the mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, sped around the world, though he is just one tiny (sorry, Giorgio, but you are, in fact, very tiny) piece of the story.  To spend even five seconds thinking about Orsoni is like thinking about a broken fingernail when you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer.

Orsoni resigned today, after house arrest, liberation, then plea-bargaining which got him a trifling four-month sentence.  To reach this point, we had to endure the usual tedious pantomime.

Day 1: “I didn’t take even one euro.”

Day 2:  “I took money but it was for my political party.”

Day 3:  “I took money.” How much?  560,000 even-one-euros.  Rabbit pellets! Emilio Spaziante, the number-two general of the entire Guardia di Finanza (what I call the Finance Police), was given 2,500,000 euros by the Consorzio Venezia Nuova.  Vulture chow!  Giancarlo Galan, the former governor of the Veneto Region, got 1,000,000 euros per year for seven years (2005 – 2011).

Back to Orsoni.

Day 4: “I’m not resigning.”

And on Day 5, “I have tendered my resignation.” Orsoni said he is bitter, disillusioned, and is going to leave the perfidious world of politics. He might as well; he already opened the Emergency Exit door himself.

Malfeasance of these dimensions requires a book, not a blog post.  A mere book?  “Give me a condor’s quill!” Herman Melville cried, staggering at the prospect of describing the white whale; “Give me Vesuvius’ crater as an inkstand!  Friends, hold my arms!”

Being a mere mortal, I can only outline a few details here, each of which is plenty.

One of the smaller barriers, with others under construction in Marghera last October.  The narrow upper edge is attached to the cement base by means of a hinge.

One of the smaller barriers, with others under construction in Marghera last October. The narrow upper edge is attached to the cement base by means of a hinge.

The tunnel in the cement caissons to which the yellow floating barriers are hinged.  This tunnel is 400 meters (1,300 feet) long, and 13 meters (43 feet) below the water's surface.

The tunnel in the cement caissons to which the yellow floating barriers are hinged. This tunnel is 400 meters (1,300 feet) long, and 13 meters (43 feet) below the water’s surface.

After five years of unflagging labor, 300 officers of the Guardia di Finanza had assembled enough evidence to validate — nay, require — the arrest of as many as 100 people on charges of corruption, bribes, kickbacks, fraud, influence-peddling, and every form of villainy in which money can play even so much as a walk-on role.  The complexity and the dimensions of this titanic construction of crime, begun in the early Nineties, has overwhelmed this project, overwhelmed even its perpetrators.

The edifice began to crumble with the unexpected retirement, on June 28, 2013, of Giovanni Mazzacurati, who spent 30 years at the apex of the Consorzio, first as director general, then as president.  He cited reasons of health.  He got a 7 million dollar departure bonus.  And on July 12, he was arrested for turbativa d’asta, or bid rigging.

The basic idea of the design.

The basic idea of the design.

At that point, even I knew what would come next: He wasn’t going to go down alone.

A straggling procession of degraded characters marches across the newspaper every day now, carrying the equally monotonous quantities of money — public money dedicated to the project, not private money — which they so eagerly accepted in so many forms, right down to the classic white envelope stuffed with cash.

A judge from the Court of Audit.  Members of parliament.  Members of the European parliament. Directors of the Magistrato alle Acque, the agency established in 1501 to safeguard the lagoon (Maria Giovanna Piva, director from 2001-2008 and Patrizio Cuccioletta, director from 2008-2011, received 400,000 euros a year to ignore what was being done in the lagoon).  Eleven years of good times rolling everywhere in the world of the famous floodgates.

In its report, which runs for many hundreds of pages, the Procura — an official government watchdog entity — said that there was “total confusion in the roles of the controllers and the controlled.  No obstacle, no vigilance, no important remark was made by the Magistrato alle Acque under Piva and Cuccioletta.”

Everyone knew something very fishy was up.  But the haul has been beyond anyone’s capacity to imagine.

“Corruption” is such a compact word that we tend to lose track of its essential meaning.  “Moral perversion; depravity; perversion of integrity; decay: rot; putrefaction.”

MOSE was supposed to save Venice.  But nobody could save Venice from MOSE.

The first of the four gates breaks the surface.

A test of the four gates at the Lido/San Nicolo’. The first of the four breaks the surface.

 

A tes of the four gates that had been installed last October.  They rise up one by one, and bob gently with the motion of the water.  If they were rigidly fixed, or came up all at once, the force of the tide could damage (i.e.,  break) them, I was told.

They rise up one by one, and bob gently with the motion of the water. If they were rigidly fixed, or came up all at once, the force of the tide could damage (i.e., break) them, I was told. The gates at Malamocco are much longer because they are installed deeper below the surface.

 

A passerby stops to look at the political satire/cartoon that was taped on walls all around the neighborhood.  Good thing I took some pictures; a day later, it was gone.

A passerby stops to look at the political satire/cartoon that was taped on walls all around the neighborhood. Good thing I took some pictures; a day later, it was gone.

(L to R, translated by me, though the interpretation is hard to get into a small caption):  THE LAST SUPPER (Let's hope). Mazzacurati: Hey guys, how much are you eating? Spaziante: Chill, Bettin (ex-councilor for the environment), we've got a secret weapon. Baita: I only wanted to facilitate. Brunetta:  I declared the MOSE money I got for the election. Beppe Caccia: During the Paolo Costa government I and Paolo Cacciari were always sleeping. Costa: For me, the "No Big Ships" is enough. Massimo Cacciari (mayor before Costa and Orsoni) To deny is a categorical imperative. Orsoni: I never took one euro. Floating ballon, a riff on a Venetian song, "Georgie, get in my gondola and I'll take you to MOSE."  Falconi: I only did the Passante (Mestre bypass). Galan:  But if Minchillo did everything. Marchese: But if for two years I wasn't a member of the Partito Democratico anymore. Scola (ex-patriarch and founder of Marcianum, a cultural entity of the diocese using dicey contributions) But if Marcianum didn't work ("march") by itself.  Minchillo: I did everything Galan ordered me to do.  (Top right corner): C. Nordio : Zip it ("boca tasi" literally means "mouth keep quiet"). At the bottom, "And Venice wasn't aware of anything?" "No, the Consorzio told them "Stay serene" (a play on "Serenissima," the sobriquet of the Venetian Republic and also the name of the right-wing political faction that wants to secede from Italy).

(L to R, translated by me, though the interpretation is hard to get into a small caption. Parts are written in Venetian): THE LAST SUPPER (Let’s hope). Mazzacurati: Hey guys, how much are you eating? Spaziante: Chill, Bettin (ex-councilor for the environment), we’ve got a secret weapon. Bettin:  I didn’t give the 4,130,000 euros for reclamation of the Certosa (island). Baita: I only wanted to facilitate. Brunetta: I declared the MOSE money I got for the election. Beppe Caccia: During the Paolo Costa government I and Paolo Cacciari were always sleeping. Costa: For me, the “No Big Ships” is enough. Massimo Cacciari (mayor before Costa and Orsoni) To deny is a categorical imperative. Orsoni: I never took one euro. Floating balloon, a riff on a Venetian song, “Georgie, get in my gondola and I’ll take you to MOSE.” Falconi: I only did the Passante (Mestre bypass). Galan: But if Minchillo did everything. Marchese: But if for two years I wasn’t a member of the Partito Democratico anymore. Scola (ex-patriarch and founder of Marcianum, a cultural entity of the diocese created with dicey contributions) But if Marcianum didn’t work (“march”) by itself. Minchillo: I did everything Galan ordered me to do. (Top right corner): C. Nordio : Zip it (“boca tasi” literally means “mouth keep quiet”). At the bottom, “And Venice wasn’t aware of anything?” “No, the Consorzio told them “Stay serene” (a play on “Serenissima,” the sobriquet of the Venetian Republic and also the name of the right-wing political faction that wants to secede from Italy).

 

Categories : MOSE
Comments (8)

The Consorzio Venezia Nuova looks at the lagoon but doesn’t see this. It sees endless floods of cash pouring into MOSE for all eternity.

I received this comment from an unknown reader, and while it’s right there in the Comments area of my blog, I wanted to make sure everybody had a chance to see it.  (I don’t assume that everybody reads the Comments.)

The obvious reply to Emiliano’s rhetorical question is “Of course they don’t want discussion,” to be followed by “Why would they want discussion?”  I would be surprised if any data is available, because I doubt that any such research has been done.  Because who would care?  Except Emiliano, I mean.

Hi,

I’m an Italian scientist working on anti-fouling alternative solutions in Sweden. I wrote an email to “consorzio venezia nuova” in order to get some informations about the strategies they intend to put in act in order to minimize the risk of malfunction of the caissons as consequence of the formation of large colonies of fouling organism inside and outside the caissons. In my opinion the weight gain caused by the formation of colonies of barnacles and mytilus could make ineffective the floating system, i.e. even if you pump air in the caissons the caissons will rest on the bottom because the 3/4 of the volume will be occupied by fouling organisms. It could have been a great opportunity for cooperation between the consortium and scientific community, a challenging problem to solve together.
But the consortium answered “what kind of paint are you selling?”. The thing is that I’m not selling anything else that several years experience, a great network of anti fouling scientists all over the world and a EU financed project that we started in sept. 2012 and which will deal with similar problematic on cruising surfaces as boats.
I proposed them opportunity, innovation, research, in other world, science, but the Consortium seems more on the let’s make it happen here and now.
Whatever. I still can’t find anywhere some data regarding what countermeasures will be taken in this project as anti-fouling system. This would be great to know, it could help transparency and open a discussion. But maybe it is exactly what has to be avoided. Discussion!
I feel sorry for not being useful as a scientist in my country. This means that i will bit it and will keep doing my impact aboard as I already have done the past few years.
(if someone have some data about the antifouling countermeasure they gone to use please put here some link or reference)
//Emiliano 

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