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Next round in the Schlick drama

The debate about the siltation of the Elbe is also coming to a head within the red-green coalition.

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Next round in the Schlick drama

The debate about the siltation of the Elbe is also coming to a head within the red-green coalition. "The ninth fairway adjustment has finally failed," said Dominik Lorenzen, co-chairman of the Greens in the Hamburg Parliament, on Wednesday. "Now it's high time for a silt summit, where everyone can look for a way out of this crisis and find sensible solutions for large-scale shipping in the north."

Dirk Kienscherf, chairman of the SPD parliamentary group in the citizenship, contradicted his parliamentary colleague and coalition partner Lorenzen: "The concept of the fairway adjustment did not fail, the federal government did not fulfill its tasks more difficultly," he said. “This is absolutely negligent behavior, also towards the employees in the port. At this point, we now expect the federal government to finally carry out its tasks.”

Hans-Heinrich Witte, President of the Federal Directorate-General for Waterways and Shipping, had previously repeated his authority's investigation from the beginning of November in "Zeit". Instead of the original 1.90 meters of additional draft, only 20 to 90 centimeters are currently possible after the deepening and widening of the Elbe, which was completed in January.

According to Witte, the reasons for this are settlement movements of the river bed after the construction work, storm surges from the North Sea and too little water from the upper reaches of the Elbe. It may take "three to five years" for the river bed to reach the planned depth again through dredging. The first improvements can be expected in "up to two years", said Witte.

There were prompt reactions from Hamburg on Thursday: The environmental organizations BUND, Nabu and WWF reiterated their demands for the dredgers to be withdrawn, the Hamburg port industry called for a quick solution to the silt problem from the federal government. It is urgently necessary "for the federal government to find solutions that can be implemented in the short term and without bureaucracy and to take measures to restore the target water depths on the federal waterway Elbe," said Norman Zurke, general manager of the manufacturing port of Hamburg.

According to information from WELT, the heads of the state and senate chancelleries from Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg will meet for another crisis summit on December 9th to find a long-term solution for the deposition of sediments outside the Lower Elbe. The economics and transport ministers of the coastal states had already discussed this in Hamburg last Friday.

Hamburg wants to end the so-called "circulatory dredging", in which sediment from the harbor basin and the Hamburg part of the Elbe is deposited on the Elbe island of Neßsand on the state border with Schleswig-Holstein. From there, the silt returns to Hamburg within a few weeks. Hamburg's contract with Schleswig-Holstein for the deposit of sediment at buoy E 3 near Heligoland expires at the end of the month. Hamburg therefore wants to bring sediment to the island of Scharhörn, which belongs to Hamburg, off Cuxhaven in the short term. Lower Saxony has announced that it will sue.

“We are still in dialogue about this. Discussions are ongoing at a political and technical level," said Hamburg's Economics Senator Michael Westhagemann (independent) of the WELT. "Our goal of avoiding circular dredging is also shared by all countries." His authority has already updated the documents "that prove the compatibility of the project": "We only want to use the disposal point in Hamburg's outer Elbe until we have a sufficient framework for action via other disposal sites, which we are investigating in parallel."

Lower Saxony's Economics Minister Olaf Lies (SPD) proposed last week to examine an area on the so-called "deep water roadstead" around 30 kilometers west of Helgoland, as a joint disposal area of ​​the federal government and the coastal states in the exclusive German economic zone (AWZ). This area can probably be used from autumn 2023, said Lies at the ministerial conference in Hamburg City Hall.

In the red-green coalition in Hamburg, however, the Schlick differences are becoming increasingly clear. "We have to realize that the depths required for large container shipping cannot be maintained in the long term, despite the recent deepening of the Elbe," said Environment Senator Jens Kerstan (Greens) of WELT.

Like Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, Kerstan is against depositing Elbe silt near Scharhörn. “The protection of the Wadden Sea is very important to me and we now need a summit at the highest political level to develop a strategy together. We note that Lower Saxony does not feel sufficiently involved, but that can be cured."

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