No mandatory environmental impact assessment for the Tumpen-Habichen power plant – how is that even possible?

No mandatory environmental impact assessment for the Tumpen-Habichen power plant – how is that even possible?

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The plans for the Ötz valley are not one hydro power plant – but the exploitation of the entire river Ötztaler Ache instead.

The Tumpen-Habichen power plant that is currently under construction is only one of many hydro power projects that would or will affect the Ötztaler Ache. For the expansion of the Kaunertal storage power plant and the expansion of the Sellrain-Silz power plant group the planned water diversions would cumulate in 43% of the catchment area of the Ötztaler Ache being diverted (measured at the gauge in Tumpen). The water would be drained from the Ötztal and be diverted into other valleys – or reservoir lakes.

But the mentioned 43% of the catchment area is not just any area – instead it includes the catchment areas of the rivers Venter and Gurgler Ache. These two rivers drain the glaciers at the far end of Ötz valley and transport the melt water to the Ötztaler Ache. The Ötz valley is classified as an inner alpine dry valley, meaning there is very little rainfall there. So where does the biggest part of the water of the Ötztaler Ache come from? From the glaciers. Through the Venter and Gurgler Ache. And all this water is supposed to be drained from the valley.

Keeping this in mind, we look at the Tumpen-Habichen power station again: The problem is not ‚only‘ the construction of a transverse structure, and a reservoir that reduces the flow speed, the disruption of the river’s ecological continuity or the changes in sediment balance. It is not ‚only‘ that the Achstürze, classified as being ‚unique‘ and ’sensitive‘, will be part of the drainage section and will quite probably be exposed to weekly reservoir flushings. But it is also about the fact that in addition to all of the above, the Ötztaler Ache will suffer from considerably lower water levels if the hydro power plans for the Kaunertal and Sellrain-Silz expansions are implemented.

All of the above has been planned and been signed of without an environmental impact assessment. How is it possible that such a multitude of interrelated projects can be planned without an EIA being required?! How is it possible to not take the cumulative effects of all these hydro power projects into account?

According to Tyrolean regulations, an EIA is not required for small hydro power plants. The limit for HPP to still be considered ’small‘ is 15 MW capacity, the power plant Tumpen-Habichen is planned with 14,48MW.

This is Enough. Enough to plan projects that cumulatively drain a whole valley and not even needing anyone to sign off on this.

 

Photo: Katja Jemec, Venter Ache

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