Power line construction set to begin

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Statnett, the state-owned company that owns, operates and builds Norway’s power grid, has said it will start construction Monday on the first phase of a power line project in Hardanger that has set off major controversy.

The initial phase, from Samnanger to Kvamskogen, is north of the scenic Hardanger Fjord and not the main target of environmentalists and a long list of others who oppose power lines over the fjord. They fear they’ll ruin the landscape and harm the area’s important tourism industry.

Activists planned to meet this week to decide whether they’ll engage in earlier-warned civil disobedience, to  protest the project. Several demonstrations already have been held, and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg visited the area last month, to mixed reviews from local residents.

Statnett and government officials have argued that the power lines are necessary to supply a critical need for more electricity in Bergen and other west coast communities. A study is currently underway to re-evaluate the alternative of an undersea cable, but Statnett notes it will far more expensive and delay completion of the project by several years.

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