Controversial construction project: “The ducks don’t have to starve”

The Federal Administrative Court gives the green light for the construction of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel – even if the work temporarily disrupts the animal world.

Planning documents for the Fehmarnbelt tunnel at the Oldenburg building authority Photo: Axel Heimken / dpa

LEIPZIG taz | Defeat all along the line: The Federal Administrative Court has dismissed all claims against the Fehmarnbelt link. Construction of the tunnel between Denmark and Germany can now also begin on the German side.

Six plaintiffs, including the Naturschutzbund (Nabu) and the city of Fehmarn, appealed against the planning approval from January 2019. Neither the ecological nor the economic objections were successful. “The planning approval withstood the test”, said the presiding judge Wolfgang Bier right at the beginning of his just under an hour’s reasoning.

Among other things, the Nabu had warned of the consequences of the construction work for the noise-sensitive harbor porpoises in the Baltic Sea. But the court found that the noise limit values ​​set for tunnel construction are lower than the noise caused by the current ferry traffic. After opening the tunnel, the situation of the whales could even improve, said Richter Bier, because the noisy ferry traffic would then decrease.

The protection of the eider ducks is also guaranteed if there is construction in their settlement area, according to the court. Although the stock of mussels will decline, “the ducks do not have to starve,” emphasized Richter Bier, “because they can and they will move to other areas.”

According to the court, audits of the construction project are thorough enough

The Nabu had hope above all because a research project at the University of Kiel found new reefs on the seabed after the planning approval decision. But even this does not make the planning approval decision illegal, said Richter Bier. The planners had checked thoroughly enough that a scientific study like that of the University of Kiel could not be required of them.

Although the newly discovered reefs are worthy of protection, according to Bier, how to deal with them must now be clarified in a “supplementary” procedure. The separation is annoying for Nabu, because because the plan resolution is now legal, the association remains at the expense of one of the largest environmental processes in Germany.

The plaintiffs had also protested against the type of tunnel. A “submerged tunnel” was chosen, which is laid with components in a channel on the seabed. A bored tunnel would be a third more expensive, but more environmentally friendly, according to the plaintiffs. However, the court emphasized, there has never been a bored tunnel with this length and this water pressure.

Neither the ecological nor the economic objections were successful in court

Nabu’s economic arguments were also ignored by the Leipzig judges. The association had generally denied the need for the gigantic tunnel. But here the court saw itself bound by the German-Danish State Treaty, which was signed in 2008 and ratified in 2009.

This has determined the need by law. According to Bier, this need is not clearly wrong. Because the yardstick could not be the heavily traveled German autobahns, but rather the traffic conditions in the sparsely populated Scandinavia.

The plaintiffs also complained that planning has already started in Germany, although lawsuits against the Danish subsidies for the project are still pending at the EU court in Luxembourg. The court saw no problem in this.

Some complaints were resolved before the verdict. The Schleswig-Holstein state constitutional court has meanwhile requested the state government to reimburse the city of Fehmarn for the future high costs for the tunnel fire brigade.


Fehmarnbelt tunnel may be built according to the Leipzig judgment | – news

Status: 03.11.2020 3:10 p.m.

The controversial Fehmarnbelt tunnel can be built on the German side. The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig has dismissed all six lawsuits against the German-Danish billion project.

The judgment is final. The plan approval decision had withstood the review, said the presiding judge Wolfgang Bier on Tuesday when giving reasons for the judgment in Leipzig. The nature conservation association NABU, several ferry companies and an action alliance, among others, had sued the billion-dollar project promoted by Denmark (Ref .: BVerwG 9 A 7.19 et al.). They doubt that the tunnel would be used sufficiently and fear environmental effects, for example on harbor porpoises and reefs in the straits. However, the envisaged conditions ensure that neither for shipping nor for nature are to be expected major risks or impairments, according to the court. For example, porpoises would not be disturbed by the noise.

NABU: concerns have been “wiped away”

The 9th Senate of the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig paved the way for the construction of the tunnel.

In addition, the developer had exercised the necessary care in planning, said the presiding judge. This ensures that the sediment input from the construction work of measuring ships is observed and that the project can be interrupted or stopped if necessary. “We are initially disappointed that the court has not followed our concerns about the protection of the Baltic Sea, porpoises and sea ducks,” said NABU President Jörg-Andreas Krüger after the judgment. The concerns of the conservationists have been wiped away. Karin Neumann from the so-called Beltretter initiative fears dramatic consequences for the island itself and tourism on Fehmarn after the judgment. Many livelihoods are at stake: “The verdict for the Fehmarnbelt tunnel is a scandal. Simply put contracts before European marine protection and other things. We have to let that sink now.” Nevertheless, the initiative wants to see what other options still exist.

Pragmatism among Danish conservationists

Before the verdict was announced in Leipzig, opponents again protested against the construction of the tunnel – a construction that Danish environmentalists view very pragmatically. They are committed to the fact that not a bridge crosses the Fehmarnbelt – as was once planned – but a tunnel through which trains can travel. That is good for the climate. For the pond, where the tunnel is to come to the surface on the Danish side, a significantly larger body of water is created elsewhere to compensate. That is also a good solution, according to the Danish conservationists. You have great understanding for the concerns on the German side, said nature conservationist Michael Loevendal Kruse NDR Info. “But in order for our world to become better, we have to solve the big problems, for example climate change.”

Building law in Denmark for five years

The construction site of the Fehmarnbelt link.  © picture alliance / dpa Photo: Markus Scholz

The excavators are already rolling on the Danish side. Construction of the tunnel is planned to start there in early 2021.

In Denmark there has been building law for car and rail tunnels since 2015. Schleswig-Holstein’s neighbor will plan, build and operate the tunnel at its own cost of an estimated 7.1 billion euros. The construction time should be a total of six and a half years. According to previous planning, the tunnel should probably connect Germany and Denmark from 2029 onwards.

Surprise for plaintiff and country

The judgment of the court came as a surprise. NABU, for example, no longer expected that the project would be overturned – but that deficits in planning were criticized in Leipzig. Even Schleswig-Holstein’s Economics Minister Bernd Buchholz (FDP) had declared that the judges would presumably give the planners “homework”. According to the court, the plans now only need to be supplemented for strictly protected reefs in the area of ​​the tunnel route. The planners have already promised a supplementary procedure for this. The decision of the judges in Leipzig shows that transport projects of this size can certainly work in Germany, said Buchholz. With its decision, the Federal Administrative Court made it clear that it is not necessary to go “quasi-scientifically into research” with such planning. It is enough to evaluate things according to the rules of technology and science. The verdict is a “milestone for infrastructure planning in Germany”.

Contract signed in 2008

The planned 18 kilometer long immersed tunnel between Puttgarden on Fehmarn and Rödby on Lolland is one of the largest transport projects in Europe. In 2008, Germany and Denmark signed the State Treaty on the Fixed Link across the Fehmarnbelt – the treaty was ratified a year and three months later. The economy hopes that the construction will give a boost to regional development.

The Fehmarnbelt crossing runs here.

This is how the planned Fehmarnbelt link should run.

The president of the business associations in the north (UVNord), Uli Wachholtz, spoke after the verdict was pronounced “a construction of the century over the Fehmarnbelt, for which the north German economy has been waiting longingly for decades”. Now the other necessary steps would have to be processed quickly and carefully, said Wachholtz. “At last, everyone involved knows what they are about. The opportunities for the region resulting from the fixed link must be used and the risks minimized. The employees in the sectors concerned must not stand in the rain and need clarity,” said Uwe Polkaehn, chairman of the DGB North.

The tunnel is also intended to shorten travel times: between Rödby and Puttgarden from 45 minutes by ferry to around ten minutes by car through the tunnel. According to DB Netz, passenger trains between Hamburg and Copenhagen would only be under three hours on the road instead of more than five hours.

Hinterland connection not part of the procedure

Germany has to pay for the costs of road and rail connections on the Schleswig-Holstein side in the amount of 3.5 billion euros. This includes a risk buffer of 1.1 billion euros. However, the current proceedings only concern the German section of the Baltic Sea tunnel. The German hinterland connection is the subject of a separate approval process. Several municipalities are demanding better noise protection.

Other lawsuits are pending before the European Court of Justice. But it is about Denmark’s state guarantees.

Bernd Buchholz gives an interview.  © NDR

VIDEO: Buchholz: No major hurdles for building the Fehmarnbelt link (6 min)

Further information

The picture shows a model of the entrance to the planned Fehmarnbelt tunnel.  © Femern A / S

The Federal Administrative Court dismissed all lawsuits against the construction of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel. We answer the most important questions. more

A dredger removes stones from the Baltic Sea in front of Roedbyhavn.  © dpa picture alliance Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard

15 Min

The Fehmarnbelt tunnel project is controversial. The Federal Administrative Court will soon decide on lawsuits from environmentalists and residents. Can construction start in 2021? 15 minutes

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NDR 1 Welle Nord | News for Schleswig-Holstein | 03/11/2020 | 17:00 o’clock

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