The Canal del Dique: Combating Winter Weather Phenomena

The Canal del Dique: Combating Winter Weather Phenomena
Adaptation Fund Department of Atlántico, Colombia
As a result of the heavy rainfalls known as “La Niña” in the winter of 2010 and 2011, a hydrosedimentological and environmental management plan for the Canal del Dique system was developed as a mitigation measure to combat the effects of the “La Niña”. CDM Smith is acting as the contract manager for the final design and construction studies to allow the implementation of the plan.

The Canal del Dique system is located towards the north of Colombia between the munic­i­pal­ity of Calamar and Cartagena Bay and is part of the former overflow delta into the Caribbean Sea from the country’s main river, the Grande de la Magdalena. It covers a total area of approx­i­mately 4,400 km².

30 November 2010 saw one of the heaviest periods of rainfall Colombia had ever experienced as the result of the phenomenon known as “La Niña”. The result was an extreme rise in the levels of the Canal del Dique and the banks of a passable section of the Canal between the towns of Calamar and Villa Rosa in the Atlántico district burst which caused floods in the south­ern­most area of this region in northern Colombia.

In September 2010, Cormag­dalena, the body responsible for the envi­ron­men­tal management of the Canal del Dique, asked the national government to finance a project for the envi­ron­men­tal restoration and hydrosed­i­men­to­log­i­cal management of the Canal del Dique System.

An fund was set up which allowed the final construc­tion design and inves­ti­ga­tions required for the execution of the mitigation measure to combat the effects of “La Niña”. The projects were taken on by the Consorcio Dique which was made up of the Colombian engineering firm Gómez Cajiao and the Dutch Royal Haskoning DHV.

The objectives of the project for the envi­ron­men­tal restoration and hydrosed­i­men­to­log­i­cal management in the Canal del Dique system are to actively regulate the incoming flows into the Canal del Dique system; to manage the movement of sediment, flooding, water levels and saline intrusion in the canal and to improve the boundary between the swamplands and the canal. Another objective is to identify scenarios for adaptation to climate change and to ensure sufficient water resources in the canal for drinking water, irrigation, livestock keeping, fishing and other services. Also, the ecosystems in Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo Natural National Park as well as the swampland, channel and Canal del Dique buffer zones shall be restored and the river navigation along the canal shall be optimised for the trans­porta­tion of goods from within the country to the ports around Cartagena Bay.

The project is being carried out in 3 phases with a total planned duration of 105 months starting July 2013. The first phase (until May 2014) covered priority activities required to rectify the most critical issues. Phase 2 (until May 2017) consisted of designing the structures required to manage flooding, navigation through the canal and the hydrosed­i­men­to­log­i­cal plan for the system. Over the next years (phase 3 until the latter half 2021), the measure­ments shall be implemented.


CDM Smith acts as so-called ‘interventor’ for the studies and designs. In Columbia, this public oversight body is established by law and involves a profes­sional in the field monitoring, holding to account and checking the execution and fulfilment (in terms of quality, costs, time and scope) of engineering projects put out to tender by public bodies. The main respon­si­bil­ity of CDM Smith is to act on behalf of the Adjustment Fund when dealing with the Consorcio Dique to monitor and then approve the designs and also maintain the oversight, monitoring and approval of any activities carried out by the constructor in any and all aspects of the work: whether technical, admin­is­tra­tive, legal, financial, envi­ron­men­tal and social.

This project seeks to remedy the damage generated by the breaking of a dyke section.

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