The Tumpen Dam and Water Framework Directive

By 9th April 2020May 27th, 2020Stop the Tumpen Dam

We need you to take action now!

The Tumpen hydroelectric power plant is the first of many hydro developments planned for the Ötz valley by the developer TIWAG and it’s associates.

You can watch the video to understand the main concerns around its construction or check out our previous blog post here:

The construction of the Tumpen powerplant has been started under the cover of the Coronavirus lockdown of Tirolean citizens, despite several outstanding legal challenges.

One major concern is the breaking of the European Water Framework Direction through the damming of this currently free-flowing river.

Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the cornerstone of the environmental protection of Europe’s rivers and freshwater ecosystems. It requires nation states to classify their waterbodies and make plans for the future development and protection on a river basin scale. The key tenant of the WFD is that no waterbody or section of a waterbody can be allowed to deteriorate from one classification to a lower classification unless there is an overriding public benefit and a number of strict criteria are met.

Article 4 Environmental objectives Section 7
 Member States will not be in breach of this Directive when:
– failure to achieve good groundwater status, good ecological status or, where relevant, good ecological potential or to prevent deterioration in the status of a body of surface water or groundwater is the result of new modifications to the physical characteristics of a surface water body or alterations to the level of bodies of groundwater, or
– failure to prevent deterioration from high status to good status of a body of surface water is the result of new sustainable human development activities
and all the following conditions are met:
(a) all practicable steps are taken to mitigate the adverse impact on the status of the body of water;
(b) the reasons for those modifications or alterations are specifically set out and explained in the river basin management plan required under Article 13 and the objectives are reviewed every six years;
(c) the reasons for those modifications or alterations are of overriding public interest and/or the benefits to the environment and to society of achieving the objectives set out in paragraph 1 are outweighed by the benefits of the new modifications or alterations to human health, to the maintenance of human safety or to sustainable development, and
(d) the beneficial objectives served by those modifications or alterations of the water body cannot for reasons of technical feasibility or disproportionate cost be achieved by other means, which are a significantly better environmental option.

The Tumpen powerplant will cause the Achstürze section of the Ötz to fall from very good to good  (1) . We therefore believe the permitting of the development to be in breach of European Law by not meeting requirements (d) and (c) of Article 4 section 7 of the Water Framework Directive.

The reasons for protecting the Ötztaler Ache in a free-flowing and ecologically intact condition for both environmental and recreational reasons are numerous and can be found on our previous blogpost here:

The benefits to “human health, to the maintenance of human safety or to sustainable development” can only be considered as the generation of electricity. However, Tyrol already produces more energy than it consumes, the vast majority of this (around 96%) was through hydropower .

In fact, a recent study shows that the whole of Austria can transition to 100% renewable energy without the need for new hydropower development in currently free-flowing rivers.

This over-reliance on hydropower alone leaves a far higher environmental impact than required for electricity generation and with lower snow fall and glacial retreat a lack of resilience in the face of global warming. With such small consideration made for alternative technologies such as solar it is impossible to see how requirement (d) above has been met.

Act now

We need you to email the responsible politicians with your concerns, around the exploitation of the Ötztaler Ache and it’s illegality under European Law.

If you live in Austria or speak German follow this link:  WET email action

Otherwise download our template letter in English below:

DOWNLOAD TEMPLATE LETTER

make sure you add your own concerns , and your name then email to:

buero.landeshauptmann@tirol.gv.at, buero.lh-stv.geisler@tirol.gv.at, buero.lh-stv.felipe@tirol.gv.at, mail@freerivers.org

References

  1. ARGE Limnologie: Ergänzende gewässerökologische Stellungnahme betreffen EuGH-Urteil C-461/13 vom 1.7.2015 (“Weserurteil”)

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