Work starts on power line project

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Fog lingered but demonstrators ended their civil disobedience in Hardanger Tuesday morning, clearing the way for work to begin on the first phase of a controversial project to run new power lines through the scenic area.

Steinar Bygdås of Statnett, the state enterprise responsible for Norway’s power grid, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that work was proceeding “without problems” by mid-morning, although fog disrupted some helicopter deliveries of material. NRK reported there were no demonstrators in sight.

They had turned out on Monday and were blocking roads and access to Statnett’s equipment before dawn. That, combined with poor weather that also had hindered delivery of equipment by helicopters, had halted the planned launch of power mast construction at Kvamskogen.

Environmental activists, local residents and even business leaders from Bergen have been among the thousands protesting the power line project. They claim it will ruin the scenic beauty around the Hardanger Fjord, and that alternatives to overhead power lines and masts weren’t adequately evaluated.

The government backed down partially after approving the project last summer, and agreed to re-evaluate alternatives such as undersea cables in some areas.

Demand for increased power supplies to Bergen, however, is deemed critical and Statnett insisted on starting work anyway on portions of the project that aren’t subject to as much controversy. The first phase involves construction of overhead lines between Børdal in Samnanger and Mødal at Kvamskogen. Workers will start clearing the forest in those areas and pouring concrete for the mast foundations.

Audun Klyve Gulbrandsen, who leads the opposition group Bevar Hardanger, said more demonstrations will be planned “but we can’t say exactly when.” Monday’s demonstration sparked some criticism, even from those also opposed to the project, because it was viewed as “overkill” but Klyve Gulbrandsen believes it was necessary.

“We still think it’s meaningless to begin construction as long as the re-evaluation is underway,” he told news bureau NTB.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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