Power plant could be built at the Rhine Falls: cantonal parliament leads the way
The cantonal council of Schaffhausen wants to make the planning of a large hydroelectric power station at the Rhine Falls possible. To this end, Parliament amended the Water Management Act.
On Monday, the cantonal council of Schaffhausen paved the way for the planning of a large hydroelectric power station at the Rhine Falls with a revision of the law on water management. The Council adopted the amendment by 48 votes to 4 with 5 abstentions, according to the “Schaffhauser Nachrichten”. This implies a potential amount of electricity of about 90 gigawatt hours.
With the decision of the cantonal council, the future of the Rhine Falls is once again being debated. As early as 2014, the inhabitants of Schaffhausen had rejected at the polls a revision of the law on water management. This was also intended to expand the use of hydroelectricity. However, in 2017 a majority of the people of Schaffhausen voted in favor of the energy strategy 2050. The government council therefore claims that the new attempt does not disregard the old will of the people.
For now, the revision decided on Monday only allows the planning of a power plant and leaves open the question of whether such a plant should actually be built in the long term. This was said by cantonal councilor Erwin Suter (EDU), chairman of the preliminary advisory commission, according to “Schaffhauser Nachrichten”. For this to happen, the power plant project would have to overcome other political and legal hurdles.
Environmental groups wanted to resist
An early version of the law change sparked outrage from environmental groups in the fall. They allow “flagrant degradation of the ecology and the landscape”, wrote the Swiss Foundation for the Protection of the Landscape, Pro Natura, the WWF and Aqua Viva in a press release last October. The competent committee of the cantonal parliament then made adjustments.
WWF Schaffhausen now wants to accept the decision of the cantonal council, as spokesperson Jonas Schmid told CH Media on Tuesday. The model does not meet in all respects the expectations of the WWF, it will not commit to a yes, according to a press release.
The reservations against a power plant are always great
Pro Natura Schaffhausen also takes note of the decision of the cantonal council. We are still very critical of the use of hydroelectricity at the Rhine Falls, as Vanessa Wirz, managing director of Pro Natura Schaffhausen, says on request. Although the current version is a marked improvement on the version last autumn – for example because the mandatory referendum has been introduced and the protection of species and landscapes has been strengthened – but:
“Nevertheless, we are very disappointed that the law deviates so much from the recommendations of the Federal Commission for the Protection of Nature and Heritage.”
In addition, many important bases are currently missing to assess the effects of the use of hydropower at the Rhine Falls. “We are now clarifying how to do this internally,” says Wirz.
The Swiss Landscape Protection Foundation (SL) is also not satisfied with the plans of the cantonal parliament of Schaffhausen. She “regrets the possible new use of the Rhine Falls as a power station”, as the foundation announced at the request of CH Media. The SL emphasizes that the hurdles are still very high for a specific project. In any case, in the case of any power station project, it will ensure that the natural beauty of the Rhine Falls is preserved in its essential form.