January 11, 2024

The Ripple Effect: Myth vs. Fact on Automated Tide Gate Impacts

Separating myth from fact regarding the installation and impact of automated tide gates and how they they help manage our vulnerability to flooding.

Automated tide gate installed in ditch

Automated tide gates, such as sluice gates, are among the many flood protection measures that allow us to enjoy a scenic life along rivers and seashores. They help manage our vulnerability to flooding. Occasionally, however, questions arise about their installation and impact. Here are three examples. Let’s separate myth from fact.

Myth: Automated tide gates disrupt natural tidal patterns, posing a threat to aquatic ecosystems.

Fact: Contrary to this myth, modern automated tide gate designs prioritize ecological sensitivity. Advanced technology and precise regulations govern the operation of these systems, ensuring controlled adjustments. Stringent protocols, including continuous monitoring and rigorous testing, ensure that these systems contribute to flood protection without causing irreparable damage to the delicate balance of tidal rhythms.

NOTE: Tide gates remain open the vast majority of the time. They only close in advance of a significant tidal event, like King Tides or extreme wind tide conditions. Remaining open a vast majority of the time allows for the normal ebb and flow of the tide, maintaining natural tidal patterns.

Myth: Automated tide gates impact water quality within channels and streams.

Fact: This myth overlooks the meticulous environmental impact assessments and regulations guiding automated tide gate installations. These assessments specifically address water quality concerns, and regulations dictate responsible practices during planning and installation. Automated systems operate within precise parameters outlined by these regulations, minimizing potential impacts on water quality.

NOTE: The installation of automated tide gates in Virginia Beach, like those located along Long Creek tributary which feeds to the Lynnhaven River, involves comprehensive water quality assessments. Adherence to environmental regulations ensures that these tide gates have minimal impact on the surrounding water quality, preserving the ecological integrity of the region.

Myth: Automated tide gates contribute to downstream flooding, exacerbating risks for communities located along waterways.

Fact: This myth assumes that automated tide gates lack the capability to manage downstream water levels effectively. In reality, modern automated tide gate designs incorporate advanced sensors and monitoring systems to regulate water flow meticulously. Strict regulations ensure that tide gates operate within parameters that prevent downstream flooding.

NOTE: Virginia Beach's automated tide gate systems proposed for Thalia Creek and London Bridge Creek will monitor water levels to help prevent downstream flooding. These tide gates, guided by stringent regulations, utilize mechanisms and adaptive features to manage water levels, safeguarding downstream communities from the risks of flooding.

Watch the below video for more information on how automated tide gates are used in Virginia Beach.

The Virginia Beach Flood Protection Program—The Ripple Effect—is a comprehensive 10-year plan to address recurrent flooding in Virginia Beach. In November 2021, Virginia Beach voters overwhelmingly supported a resiliency package for several key flood protection initiatives to include drainage improvements, tide gates, pump stations and flood barriers throughout the city. The projects are led by Public Works with support from a community oversight board for transparency and accountability. Learn more at virginiabeach.gov/RippleEffect.

Contact Information

Public Works Stormwater Engineering Center

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