Prior entry in the cantonal structure plan is required to raise the walls of the Grimsel reservoir. This has been decided by the Federal Supreme Court and the complaint from two nature conservation organizations has been approved. The project goes back to the Bernese government council for a new assessment.
The government must now clarify various open points in connection with the planned increase in the two dams Spitallamm and Seeuferegg. This emerges from a ruling by the federal court published on Thursday. Kraftwerke Oberhasli AG submitted the application for the expansion and the corresponding addition to the license.
Basis in the structure plan is missing
In its judgment, the Federal Supreme Court stated that in view of the importance of increasing the dam wall and thus enlarging the reservoir, a basis in the cantonal structure plan is required. At this planning level, the interests in increasing capacity and those of nature and landscape protection would have to be weighed against each other.
Such a full dispute has not yet taken place. It can be assumed that the increase in the dam wall represents a national interest, as stated in the Energy Act.
According to the Federal Supreme Court, this interest alone can justify an encroachment on the so-called “Bernese High Alps and Aletsch-Bietschhorn area”. The area is listed in the Federal Inventory of Landscapes and Natural Monuments of National Importance.
However, the balancing of interests has so far not taken into account that the foreland of the Unteraar Glacier is probably a floodplain of national importance. In addition, the expansion of the Trift power plant must be included in the considerations. This is preferred to the expansion of the Grimsel dams due to economic considerations.
Deadlines not set
At the level of the structure plan, the Trift and Grimsel projects should be examined for their effects on space and the environment in the same area and coordinated with one another. As a result, it must be decided whether there is an overriding public interest in the implementation of both projects or only in one or neither.
According to the Federal Court, no deadlines have yet been set with regard to the implementation of the expansion of the Grimsel dams and their operation. However, the law prescribes such. If they cannot be defined at the current point of view, the award of a concession is excluded.
The Oberhasli power plants are planning to raise the dam walls on Lake Grimsel. As a result, the lake level would rise by 23 meters and the storage volume would increase by 75 million cubic meters to a new 170 million cubic meters. This would make it possible to store an additional 240 GWh of energy.
The Federal Supreme Court has had to deal with the project several times because nature conservation and landscape protection and the expansion of renewable energies get in each other’s way.