Dam or barrier?
Initially, the Oosterschelde would be closed with a regular dam. In 1967, one had already started raising three artificial islands. After that, concrete would be poured to close the Oosterschelde. This never happened, however. More and more people began to realise that the closure of the Oosterschelde would have several consequences. The first priority was safety, but nature could not be forgotten. One possibility was to keep the Oosterschelde open and to systematically raise the 150 kilometres of dikes around the Oosterschelde. In 1975, however, the then cabinet proposed to build an open barrier, which could be closed. The barrier would consist of piers among which slides were hung. These slides could close the Oosterschelde in time of necessity. The barrier would be much more expensive than a dam. For that reason, a lot of discussion arose in the Dutch Lower Chamber. The parliament eventually agreed in 1979 that two auxiliary dams had to be constructed: the Philips Dam and the Oester Dam. These dams restricted the surface of the Oosterschelde and strengthened the tidal movements. Additionally, a tide-free shipping route was created between Antwerp and the Rhine.
The scenery around the Oosterschelde cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Nowhere else, the combination of land and sea left such unique impressions. There is a great variety of life: more than 70 types of fish, 140 types of water plants and algae, 350 types of animals living in the water and between 500 and 600 types on the land. The Oosterschelde is an important area for birds that are looking for food, or want to brood or are looking for a place to hibernate. If the Oosterschelde would have been closed, this unique saltwater environment would have been lost, together with the mussel and oyster culture. This would also have had severe economic consequences. Fishery has always been the largest source of income for the traditional fishing villages such as Yerseke and Bruinisse. People have been farming oysters in the Oosterschelde since 1870.