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