Activists give up ‘monster mast’ fight

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Norway’s state-owned power grid enterprise Statnett has quietly completed a fourth of its controversial new power line project on the north side of the Hardanger Fjord. Environmental activists and a long list of community leaders and politicians were bitterly opposed to what they called “monster masts,” but are now giving up two years of civil disobedience.

The so-called 'monster masts' project is moving forward, after protesters have given up. PHOTO: Bevar Hardanger

They’re backing down after admitting defeat, but still call the politicians who approved the major power line project ‘liars.” They’re planning to hold a wake this month for the project they fought hard against, and lost. They still don’t want the huge power lines to ruin scenic mountain landscapes, but have given up hopes of halting it now.

They contend state officials and Statnett itself deceived the public by claiming the huge “monster masts” were necessary to ensure power supplies to west coast communities, not least the city of Bergen.

“Now we know they really wanted to be able to electrify offshore installations, and sell more power overseas,” Synnøve Kvam, spokeswoman for the action group against the masts, told newspaper Aftenposten last week. She feels the entire project has been a bluff.

Reidun Sleire of Granvin, where the new power masts will tower over her family’s home and farm, also claims the authorities deceived the local population on how the masts would look. They promised they’d be painted in camouflage colours, but helicopters are putting new masts in place that are painted red and white, far from colours that would blend in with the landscape.

“This is just one of many things Statnett and the authorities have cheated us about,” Sleire told Aftenposten.  Asked why the masts weren’t painted in more discreet greens and browns, Steinar Bygdås of Statnett said aviation authorities wouldn’t allow that, after the maker of automatic warning systems to alert airline traffic went out of business. Another’s system wasn’t approved, so the masts ended up being painted in colours that would make them more visible to approaching aircraft, not less.

Statnett officials admit the massive protests of 2010 and last year delayed the project, as did a winter with a lot of snow. “But now we’re on track and have built nearly 24 kilometers of the 93-kilometeter route,” Bygdås told Aftenposten. “We expect to be completed in December 2013.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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