A desk study was carried out to determine if seabed landscaping was possible within the Dutch legislation. The study identified and analysed the opportunities and obstacles in the existing judicial and licensing framework related to sand extraction in Dutch coastal waters. Policy and legal requirements were assessed by the extent to which, and the way in which, they stimulate or impede the development of seabed landscaping, considering technical dredging aspects as well as ecological opportunities.

For the Maasvlakte 2 sand extraction site a license for sand extraction was already granted. Discussions with permitting authorities and stakeholders led to the conclusion that the landscaping could be integrated in the contractor’s working plan. If the design of the landscape remained within the general requirements and boundaries of the permit, no objections were to be expected (Lulofs, 2010).

The next step was to prepare the design of the landscaping. This was done according to the principles of Eco-Dynamic Development and Design (EDD):

  1. Analyse the ecosystem functioning in the designated sand extraction site and its surroundings.
  2. Explore options for the proposed project and try to even better integrate with other functions such as coastal defence, aquaculture, sand and gravel extraction, land reclamation, ecological development or restoration, etc.
  3. Explore options to use natural processes to achieve the integration mentioned under the previous point.

After defining the ecological and physical baseline conditions , the planning and design phase concentrated on optimising the landscaping design for the sand extraction site. It followed the relatively simple approach described below (Rijks, 2011):

  • Requirements. These were obtained through discussions with stakeholders. It is important to translate the ideas and technical criteria into requirements which can be used in the design process.
  • Design. The design process translates the requirements into a design. This is an iterative process: while the design is taking shape, the formulation of the requirements can be improved. The result of this process is the actual design.
  • Verification. This is the check whether the design meets all requirements (technical, procedural, financial). If this is not the case, either the set of requirements or the design needs to be changed.

The following stakeholders were asked for their input, based on their role in the project:

  • Marine ecologists: what are the physical gradients required for optimal ecological development and habitat creation?
  • Morphologists: to what extent are the ecosystem-based sand bars stable and how do they compare natural bed forms tending to develop in the area after extraction?
  • Contractors: how about workability and practical realization of the design?
  • Authorities: to what extent can the design be realised within the existing permit and legislation structure?