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Published: 2 December 2017      

Hamburg welcomes latest Elbe judgement

Germany's highest civil court has rejected claims by riparian town councils and commercial fishing interests that the Elbe deepening project would damage tourism and fish stocks

The municipalities of Cuxhaven and Otterndorf along with Elbe and inshore fishing interests lodged an action against the Elbe Fairway deepening and widening project on the grounds that it threatened vital commercial interests.

The Leipzig court previously ruled that the plans comply with German and European law including water quality and habitat directives, and again upheld the plans, stating that the public interest in improvement of the fairway trumps the interests of the plaintiffs, which are of more limited geographical and economic importance.

The decision was welcomed by the Hamburg city government and the port industry. It confirms the earlier verdict of the court from February 2017. Hamburg’s Senator Frank Horch said: "The decision of the Federal administration court takes us another step towards the execution of the fairway adjustment of the lower- and upper Elbe. As early as January 2018 we should be able to put forward an application for the plan supplement with the respective authorities.”

As to when the actual dredging could commence, Gunther Bonz, president of the Port of Hamburg employers association, believes that work could start in late 2018.

Just before the verdict from the Leipzig court was announced, the minister for economic and transport affairs of the state of Lower Saxony, Olaf Lies, signalled an important change in policy, indicating that the Elbe Fairway, Weser and Outer Ems projects all needed to be taken forward, subject to all legal requirements being met.

Later this month the Leipzig court will consider outstanding claims from four private individuals dealing with noise, wash and light pollution arising from the Elbe project.


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