29 - Provinces and water board

The Flevoland province was festively established on 9 January 1986 in the presence of Queen Beatrix. Zooming in on the history of this twelfth province, however, its starting point is many decades earlier. The 'administrative division of the Netherlands' proves to be a tricky subject in Dutch politics. Since the 1950s, countless ideas and proposals have been covered. 24 'mini-provinces', 26 'do-provinces' and in 1993 the idea is uttered of installing 'city provinces'. The latter proposal would have resulted in the dissolution of the young Flevoland province and the city of Almere would be allocated to the city province of Amsterdam, while the rest of Flevoland would be divided between Gelderland and Overijssel. In 2011, talks are again ensuing about administrative action, this time by creating a single 'Randstad province', with Flevoland, Utrecht and North-Holland. Minister Plasterk (PvdA, cabinet Rutte II) aims to present a final proposal for this before the 2013 summer parliament break. Currently, there seems little support for the idea among the population. In short, the discussion about administrative division in the Netherlands is timeless and will seemingly never stop.

History

Long before the draining of the Noordoostpolder, political circles were considering the future administration of the Zuiderzee region. In line with Dutch tradition, a committee for this was established in 1939. At the centre of that discussion then and later was if there should be a twelfth province, or if the new polders should be allocated to surrounding provinces. Overijssel and Gelderland claimed the Noordoostpolder and Eastern Flevoland, respectively, and with the arrival of Southern Flevoland and possibly Markerwaard, that region was destined to be included into North-Holland.
After the draining of the Noordoostpolder, a heated discussion ensued about the provincial division of the Zuiderzee project. This discussion intensified when the Noordoostpolder was to become a municipality and therefore had to be divided into a province. Finally, minister Toxopeus decided that from the moment of establishment of the municipality (1962), the Noordoostpolder would be temporarily assigned to the Overijssel province. The Urk municipality had already been added to Overijssel in 1950.

Flevoland province, impression of the landscape and division of municipalities, 2012.

The discussion about the new piece of the Netherlands becoming or joining a province would continue until 1985. In retrospect, one can conclude that the odds of the IJsselmeerpolders becoming an independent province were strongly fluctuating over time. Proponents of a polder province pointed out the equality of polder mentality, the similar agricultural developments and the own identity. What mattered most was that the people in the polders believed firmly in having their own province. 


After the ministers of Internal Affairs H. Wiegel and W.F. de Gaay Fortman, who both argued for the splitting up of Flevoland, it was minister E. van Thijn in cabinet Lubbers I in 1981 who triggered the decision to start fleshing out the idea for an independent, twelfth province. On 14 January 1983, the cabinet Lubbers II drew up the bill, after which minister Rietkerk eventually pushed the bill through the Dutch Parliament and Senate. A remarkable feat, given the amount of resistance in the Senate, in part due to the Overijsselse lobby. On 25 June 1985, the bill for the establishment of the Flevoland province was accepted in the Senate with 38 votes in favour and 33 votes against. 

On 15 February 1985, the Dutch Parliament schedueld a hearing about the establishment of the Flevoland province. The hearing was held at ' Voorhuys in Emmeloord. The mayor of Lelystad J.P.A. (Hans) Gruijters spoke on behalf of the six municipalities.

Project agency Flevoland

The project agency Flevoland was founded in 1984. Without any undue delay, it assumed responsibility to prepare the province. After the voting results of the Senate, elections were called for the new provincial administration. These elections took place on 18 September 1985, after which the province's so-called preparatory body could get to work. Many things had to be arranged, including the design of the administration, the appointment of the first Queen’s Commissioner and the registrar, the construction of a provincial building and the drawing up of many provincial decrees and administrative procedures. One of the major decisions was the establishment of two water boards.

The Flevoland province officially started on 1 January 1986. The provincial administration saw the development of Flevoland as its primary task. 'Flevoland is not yet finished' became its creed. In 1993, a sizeable contribution through the European structural funds helped to catch up on the backwardness of Flevoland (compared to the rest of the Netherlands). Together with the Government, programmes were established that resulted in the building of infrastructure (including the A27, N50 roads) and economic developments like company terrains, supporting start-ups and stimulating first-rate knowledge institutes.

Overview of the new route at Ens, January 2011.

All in all, this collaborative approach led to over 2 billion euro being invested in Flevoland. 

The new bridge at Ramspol with inflatable rubber dam.

See also movie: Plaatsing brugklep nieuwe Ramspolbrug (2012)    

The Water Board 

After the establishment of the province, a decision was quickly reached to instate two water boards. The responsibility for water management in de IJsselmeerpolders rested with the Dienst Zuiderzeewerken, as part of Rijkswaterstaat. As of April 1986, water management responsibility was transferred to two water boards: Water Board Noordoostpolder and Heemraadschap Fleverwaard with Eastern and Southern Flevoland as their working area. Water Board Noordoostpolder was a so-called quantity water board, meaning its tasks were focussed only on safety and the provision of sufficient water. Water quality was managed by what was then the Zuiveringschap West-Overijssel. The main office of the Water Board Noordoostpolder was in Emmeloord.


On 1 January 2000, the Water Board Noordoostpolder merged with the Heemraadschap Fleverwaard to form the new Water Board Zuiderzeeland. The main office switched to Lelystad. Simultaneously, quality management, which until then was the task of the Zuiveringschap West-Overijssel, was added to the responsibilities of the new water board. With it, the water board received three core tasks, these being to ensure safety, provide sufficient water and maintain surface water quality. This merger was in full accordance with national developments. An increasing amount of water boards began to merge, placing the quantity and quality tasks into one body.

Water map Noordoostpolder.

Roughly one percent of the Noordoostpolder's surface is reserved for water (see also pane 8). This is a relatively small amount of water storage. In the past decades, this has led to the Noordoostpolder facing several serious water nuisances. The flooding of large portions of Tollebeek (1998) are still vividly recollected by many polder inhabitants.

Water nuisance in Tollebeek 1998.

Ever since the establishment of the Water Board Noordoostpolder, water storage capacity has been an active area of development. Efforts to reduce water nuisance resulting from heavy rainfall include the construction of nature-based banks and the prolonged retention of excess water in the higher regions of the Noordoostpolder. Still, this does not entirely solve the problem. Because the region continues to settle, water levels in the IJsselmeer continue to rise and with looming climate changes, the near future may require even more water storage. The Government, province, municipality and the water board will have to join forces in solving the above hydraulic-engineering issues.