Estonia working on maritime area plan
The Ministry of Finance’s planning department following an EU directive has been working on a maritime area plan for Estonia since 2009. The plan aims at coordinating all activities along and off the Estonian coast, offering for the first time a comprehensive approach that includes the interests of all affected groups and parties.
Currently every activity in Estonian waters and along its coast is regulated separately. This means that only the interests of those groups are taken into consideration that are directly affected by construction, dredging a channel for ships, and the like, advisor in the Ministry of Finance’s planning department, Anni Konsap, told ERR’s radio news.
What was really needed was a more comprehensive approach that included all parties affected by a project. This could be important in the case of projects like wind farms, for example, Konsap said.
“Offshore wind farms are new objects in the sea. This means they compete with traditional activities, like maritime transport and fishery,” Konsap said. The aim of the maritime area plan then was to look at all these activities together and make sure all of them were considered.
The maritime area plan follows a European Union directive, according to which every member state is required to develop such a plan. The directive specifies that this has to be done based on the local ecosystem, which includes environmental factors.
Several studies were conducted in 2016, for example about the migration routes of birds through Estonia’s coastal territories. The effect of potential wind farm construction on birds’ feeding areas was analyzed, along with migration routes of certain species of bats present along the southwestern coast of the island of Saaremaa.
The maritime area plan has been in the works since 2009, and has been completed for the coastal areas of both Pärnu and Hiiu County as a pilot project. While the plan for Hiiumaa has been confirmed, the one for Pärnumaa is still making rounds in the Ministry of Finance.
The two pilot plans brought out the most important points of conflict between different interest groups and parties. For instance, the municipality of Emmaste in Hiiumaa, together with nine private citizens and a local not-for-profit, are taking the state to court over the plan for their area as it would allow for the construction of large wind farms the locals are against.
“The questions for both sides have mainly been how far off the coast a wind farm would eventually be built, and what good would come of it for the local government. Then of course there’s the influence of wind farms on fishing, which has been the main reason [for opposition to the plan] in Pärnu County, and then there’s been the question of undersea cable connections, so that the electrical network of Hiiumaa would benefit as well,” Konsap explained.
A draft of the first maritime plan for Estonia is expected for November 2018. The plan could then be ready in December 2019.