Proposed alternatives to the hotly contested Hardanger Fjord ‘monster mast’ power lines have been described as just as threatening to the area’s ecosystem as overhead power masts by a leading environmental research group.
Representatives from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (Norsk institut for naturforskning, NINA) have suggested that undersea cables would threaten the previously unspoiled nature of the fjord’s waters. This latest criticism comes just days after a series of expert panels concluded that the only viable alternative to unsightly overhead power lines, which met with much protest last year, would bring with it a massively increased cost of NOK 3.4 billion and five to 10 years more in construction time, as well as a variety of further technical challenges.
NINA’s chief research, Inga Bruteig, told newspaper Aftenposten that “we have a long tradition of putting things under the ocean that we don’t want to know about. An encroachment that you cannot see is not less damaging than an ugly encroachment.”
In particular, Bruteig pinpointed the potential threat to the undersea ecosystem. “The cables will influence an ecosystem that until now has been completely untouched,” she said. While admitting that the cables would not be a direct threat to any particular species or aspect of biodiversity, the chief researcher underscored the fact that “we are not aware of the full consequences of this encroachment.”
The Hardanger Fjord controversy has rocked the Norwegian red-green coalition government, although more recent opinion polls suggest that the public has warmed to the government’s position on the issue. The government will hold a hearing on February 10 to discuss the recent research findings, after which a final decision is promised as soon as possible.