Ministry wants underwater study before fixed connection over Suur Strait
While the Estonian Association of Architects wants an architectural contest organized for the possible bridge over tunnel connecting mainland Estonia and the island of Muhu, the Ministry of Culture has called for an underwater archeological study to be conducted in the strait.
Until September 10, proposals for a draft law regarding the fixed connection spanning Suur Strait between mainland Estonia and Muhu island could be presented. Now the proposals will be processed and responded to.
One of the proposals came from the Ministry of Culture, who wants there to be an underwater study conducted in the planned area. Ministry chancellor Tarvi Sits noted that there are no known ancient or archeological findings or objects in Suur Strait, because there have never been any studies conducted in the area to determine the cultural heritage. Therefore, he says there should be an underwater archeological study conducted in the fixed connection's area that would assess the environmental effects to the cultural heritage.
A sonar study would determine the existence of objects and cultural heritage in the underwater area, after which these findings would be documented to determine their condition and extent of preservation.
"Mapping out and determining the cultural heritage of the Suur Strait connection are is an important factor and a necessary one for long-term activity on the seabed to ensure the preservation of existing, but also currently unknown underwater cultural heritage," Sits noted in an explanatory referendum.
The ministry chancellor said a study would avoid a situation where construction would have to be suspended in case something is found during the development.
Architects want an architectural contest
The Estonian Association of Architects has made a proposal in the framework of the preparation of the spatial plan to add to the terms and conditions a requirement that a public competition must be held for the structure's architectural design.
The opinion is seconded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.
"A bridge or a tunnel across the Suur Strait will have a significant symbolic meaning and visual impact on the surrounding environment and local settlements. It is therefore important to obtain the best architectural solution for said structure," the association's president Andro Mänd says in a letter to the Ministry of Finance, which is overseeing the procedure of the spatial plan.
Mänd said that in the association's opinion, the best spatial solution can be obtained through organizing an open architectural competition. "It has already become customary to write the requirement to conduct an open competition into the terms when it comes to important objects planned under the spatial plans of cities. This requirement must also be applied to landmark infrastructure objects, and it is essential that this requirement is set forth already in the initial stage of the process," he said.
Mänd added that the architectural solution of the potential bridge is important, as are the exits and pick-ups of the bridge, which must take into account the spatial and historical environment of the settlements and ensure the sustainability of the development and the effective functioning of the settlements. Thus, the involvement of an architect in this process is essential.
Route selection still ongoing
Ministry of Finance adviser Siim Orav told ERR that the next step in the process is to work through the proposals, which were submitted for the draft law and public discussions will be organized in mid-October.
After the discussions, the draft law will head into a coordination round between authorities, after which final amendments will be made and the document is finished.
Orav said only then can the spatial plan be drawn up.
In the first stage - location pre-selection - analyses determined in the document and a route alternative comparison will be conducted. The current ferry connection is compared with all route alternatives. "It will become clear by the end of the first stage, which fixed connection type and route will be selected and what the process will continue with in the second stage of the spatial plan," Orav said.
The adviser noted that it can also be determined that the current ferry connection is the best available option to ensure a connection between mainland Estonia and the islands. With this, the option of constructing a bridge or tunnel would fall out of the agenda.
If a tunnel or bridge is selected, however, the state-organized second stage is conducted. By the end of this stage, the bridge or tunnel alternative would be drawn up down to the details. The final spatial plan will be established by the government.
Plans for a bridge have been touted for years. One of the main questions has been funding, with the possibility of using Chinese capital having been on the table in recent years, as well as that from companies both local and international.
Last year, the finance ministry polled the nearby municipalities of Lääneranna, Muhu, and Saaremaa on the fixed connection and found that the residents of Lääneranna and Saaremaa municipalities support a bridge or tunnel over Suur Strait, the people of Muhu do not. The Chamber of Environmental Associations would only approve of a tunnel, as the construction of a bridge is excluded because it would have far-reaching effects on birds and ringed seals.
The Suur Strait lies between Muhu and mainland Estonia and also links the Väinameri, a bay encircled by the islands of Muhu, Saaremaa, Hiiumaa and Vormsi, and the Gulf of Riga.
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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste