(NBC) – Controversial and long-delayed underwater barriers passed their first emergency with flying colors Saturday, protecting the Italian lagoon city of Venice from a tide that peaked at 49 inches, a level that would normally inundate more than a third of the city.

Instead, Saint Mark’s Square, one of the lowest points in the city, remained dry as tourists crisscrossed the space, ignoring the raised walkways put in place each fall against the notorious high tides.

Authorities accelerated deployment of the system after the lagoon city was inundated with the worst tides in 53 years last November.

An increased frequency of high water brought on by climate change has added urgency to the completion of the project.

While the 78 barriers have all been installed, some infrastructure is still being completed.

Eventually, the system will be deployed when tides of 43 inches are forecast, but while work is still underway, the project’s special commissioners have set a threshold of 51 inches, which was the forecast.

The system of movable underwater barriers, dubbed Moses, has been beset by corruption, cost overruns and delays.