The Norwegian government revealed on Friday that it was going along with a highly controversial plan to build a major new power line over and around Norway’s scenic and famed Hardanger Fjord. The area’s tourism industry, environmentalists and several local politicians are furious, and one mayor is already threatening to physically attempt to block what many fear will ruin the landscape.
The government approved the much-debated plan during Friday’s Council of State, just before heading off on summer holidays. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that its approval cannot be appealed.
The decision marks another huge defeat for Norwegian environmental advocates, and also for the cruise and tourism industries that don’t want to see 90 kilometers (around 54 miles) of power lines built over the scenic fjord and mountains. Some of the power line’s masts will be 45 meters high, and have been dubbed “monster masts” by local residents.
The power line will run through five municipalities around Hardanger and is aimed at providing more stable power supplies to the Bergen area, which faced shortages during last winter’s record cold snap. Most of the local municipalities, though, have opposed the power line plan and argued instead for underwater or underground lines. State officials and now the government have claimed that would be too expensive.
Statnett, in charge of Norway’s power grid, concluded that “the best alternative” will be a new 420kv line from the Sima power plant in Eidfjord (at the eastern end of the Hardanger Fjord) to a transformer station at Samnanger.
The Norwegian Mountain Trekking Association (DNT) has also opposed the plan, because the power lines will run through popular and scenic hiking areas and even areas so far untouched by any development.
NRK reported that the municipalities will be paid NOK 100 million in compensation for ruined scenery, but they’re not happy. The mayor of Ulvik said she is contemplating chaining herself to other opponents in the area, in an effort to block construction.
The coalition government’s approval also marks another major defeat for its Socialist Left party (SV), which had opposed the power line and wanted more time to explore other alternatives. Both the Labour and Center parties also have try to mount an environmental profile, but angry environmentalists believe it’s a sham.
A state secretary for the Center Party, Guri Størvold, tried to mount a united front on the decision though, claiming to Bergens Tidenes website bt.no that “a unified government stands behind the decision that the Oil and Energy Ministry has taken.” She said all other alternatives were evaluated, and the government concluded there was no other alternative to the overhead power line.