Environmental Board: We do not have to reimburse for stopping roadworks

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Roadworks at Kanama. Source: ERR

While Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Center) thinks the Environmental Board should pay for stopping the development of a four-lane highway, the board's deputy director Olav Avaraslu sees no reason why the board should pay.

Environmental Board deputy director Olav Avarsalu told Vikerraadio's news show "Uudis+" on Thursday that works were suspended because there was a complaint which led to the board finding more than 100 bird nests in the nearby woods. Due to the number of nests and the diversity of species, the deforestation works were stopped.

Avarsalu said legislation stands on the board's side and added that such works have been stopped before.

He confirmed that roadworks are stopped until July 20 in most road sections and until July 31 in others. "Finding a balance between economic and environmental arguments is quite complicated or even impossible," Avarsalu said, pointing out that roadworks can be done during bird nesting periods, but deforestation works have to be done sooner.

Road developer TREV-2 is asking for €1.7 million in compensation and economic affairs minister Taavi Aas finds that the decision-makers should be responsible for compensation in such major decisions.

Avarsalu pointed out that the board was notified of a dangerous viaduct and they made an exemption for it, since it needs immediate repair. "If it is found that the Environmental Board has been part of illegal activities or has stopped works illegally, then it is indeed possible to make claims as of the State Liability Act, but this is a hypothetical argument. This would also require that we have also illegally implemented the Nature Conservation Act," the board's deputy director said.

He added that there has been a recommendation up for years in the forest registry, which the board uses to issue deforestation permits to plan for the works outside of nesting periods. The goal of this, according to Avarsalu, is to avoid the anger and damages from suspending works.

The Environmental Board has made close to 40 decisions on stopping deforestation this year. Minister Taavi Aas said a road developed claim would create a precedent as forest owners with stopped permits could all go to the board for compensation.

"That can not be ruled out. But I think court proceedings are also correct in some situations. The court makes its decision on how similar situations can be handled in the future," Aas told ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera".

Forest owners have already turned to court with claims against the Environmental Board, in fact. "Creating this precedent favors things if they are solved in a way that calculates the damages into cash and it is paid out. Another option is that the Environmental Board takes a look at its practices - how rational is stopping deforestation works just in case," said Andres Talijärv, CEO of the Estonian Private Forest Association.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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