Status of the EIA Proceedings

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process for the Kaunertal Power Plant Expansion project has been ongoing for over 10 years. This update provides an overview of the current status.

In 2012, TIWAG submitted the permit application and the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to the Tyrolean Regional Government. The documents were first reviewed, and in 2013, the authority issued TIWAG the first improvement directive.

In 2015, TIWAG submitted the revised documents for review. At the same time, conflicting procedures with the municipality of Sölden, which had applied for its own hydropower plants on the Venter Ache and Gurgler Ache rivers, were ongoing. Sölden won the dispute over the Gurgler Ache project in 2014, leading to restrictions on the Kaunertal Power Plant Expansion project by the authority in 2017. TIWAG had to adjust the amount of water to be drawn from the Gurgler Ache.

In 2019, the planned Gurgler Ache hydropower plant received a negative water rights decision, and the municipality of Sölden filed a complaint with the Administrative Court. In 2022, Sölden lost the dispute over the water of the Venter Ache, and the EIA process, which had been paused at TIWAG’s request in 2017, resumed in 2023.

In February 2023, TIWAG submitted the project for the 4th time for review to the regional authorities and received another improvement directive in July. It needs to be revised in 29 out of 45 technical areas, including insufficient consideration of climate change and the need for a geological survey. TIWAG has until the end of October 2024 to submit the changes, marking the 4th revision and the 5th overall submission.

Afterward, the documents will be reviewed again by the regional assessors. If the authority deems the documents complete, the “public disclosure” phase of the documents will begin, and the EIA process will enter a new phase. For 6 weeks, the project documents will be available for public inspection, and a 6-week period will start during which citizen initiatives can form, and environmental organizations, affected municipalities, and citizen initiatives can submit statements and objections.

Unfortunately, in the public phase of the EIA, it’s usually not about whether the project will be built anymore, but only about changes and compensatory measures.

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