Posted on 27 April 2020
Dam Construction Seeks to Take Advantage of COVID-19 Restrictions
reports that under cover of Corona virus curfews, a dam is now being built on the Ötztaler Ache River while legal complaints are still pending. Developers have begun building the Tumpen-Habichen Power Plant without waiting for the legal procedure to finish. This unique stretch of water must remain free flowing to preserve the biodiversity it supports, manage flood risk and to maintain the recreational opportunities it offers.
WWF-Austria, WET - Wildwasser Erhalten Tirol
, Save our Rivers and the "BI gegen Wasserkraftanlage Tumpen" citizens' initiative call for the State of Tyrol to stop construction immediately and ensure that the Ötztaler Ache remains free flowing.
What is the situation?
Ötztaler Wasserkraft GmbH (municipality of Oetz, municipality of Umhausen Auer Beteiligungs GmbH, TIWAG-Tiroler Wasserkraft AG) is planning to construct and operate a hydropower plant in the Ötz Valley above Achstürze Falls. The river’s natural flow will be diverted from the riverbed through pipes instead. This power plant would be the first on an otherwise free-flowing Ötztaler Ache River
In mid-March 2020, construction work suddenly started. With legal proceedings unresolved and Corona virus measures keeping people under curfew, the diggers moved in.
WWF-Austria has filed an appeal against the plant’s nature conservation permit with the Provincial Administrative Court, and an appeal at the Supreme Court (VwGH) against the water right permit. Both are still pending. Moreover, there is an outstanding permit appeal by the local citizens' initiative "BI gegen Wasserkraftanlage Tumpen."
If the Tumpen Dam is completed, very little water would remain in the river bed and the lower section would no longer follow a natural flow regime. Instead, the water levels would rise and fall according to how much energy the electricity company chooses to sell. If the Achstürze Falls are mostly drained, this steep and ecologically unique section of waterfalls would be lost and seriously affect the section of river immediately downstream. One victim would be the world-renowned Wellerbrücke Rapids, famous as a stage of the Sickline Extreme Kayaking World Championships.
The potential impacts on ecology, landscape, recreational value and flood safety are huge. The environmental damage would far outweigh the benefits of the minimal amount of electricity the power plant would be able to produce
– a mere 14.48 MW at maximum output.
Residents living near the planned reservoir in Tumpen are rightly concerned about the increased flood risk for the villages
Tumpen and Habichen, and the siting of the planned reservoir close to a mudflow area
Local citizens are outraged at the way construction was started. Information has not been made available to the public, there has been no construction negotiation, and residents believe that the developers’ raid-like speed has taken advantage of the Corona crisis curfews to circumvent public protest
. Legally, though, construction sites can carry on working despite COVID-19 movement restrictions – which leaves this project a done deal if we do not act now. These scandalous procedural manipulations are an outrage and must be stopped.
Demand that the Tyrolean State Government intervene now as the supervisory authority. They must stop work on the construction site and reject the Tumpen-Habichen power plant plans once and for all.
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