There is not enough time left to perform dredging in Rukki Channel, located off the coast of Western Estonia's Lääne County on the sea lane between the mainland and the island of Hiiumaa before summer, the Estonian Maritime Administration said on Thursday.
Estonian Maritime Administration Director General Rene Arikas told BNS that even if the Ministry of the Environment were to grant a request by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications to change the special use permit to allow dredging before Aug. 1, it would not be possible to start this work much earlier.
According to Arikas, at least one month is needed for geological surveys, which cannot be started before the sea ice has melted. After that, an additional month is needed for the planning of the works to be done, while drawing up and conducting a procurement will take another month and a half, provided no one contests the outcome.
It may be possible to improve the condition of the channel by trawling, however. The Estonian Maritime Administration is to conduct a survey of the profile of the channel once the ice has melted, and should the results of the analysis reveal that trawling may be successful, the agency may commission the work, Arikas said.
No special permit for the use of water is required for trawling the seafloor, he added.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications on Wednesday turned to the Ministry of the Environment to have a permit for the special use of water issued to the agency by the latter amended.
The permit issued on March 14 permits altogether 8,000 cubic meters of material to be removed from the channel as needed, up to 2,000 cubic meters at a time every two or three years. In order to minimize impact on the environment, the works must be performed either between August and mid-October or between December and mid-March.
Following an emergency late last week in which low water levels prevented ferries from operating fully loaded and according to schedule on the Heltermaa-Rohuküla route, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications asked the Ministry of the Environment to change the permit so that dredging could be started at the first opportunity, but no later than May 1.
The last time sediments were removed from the bottom of the Rukki Channel was in October 2016, when a depth of at least five meters was achieved throughout the channel by means of trawling. The trawling did not produce lasting results, however, as currents keep bringing sediments to the bottom of the channel.
The works to be carried out this year are intended to achieve a depth of 5.2 meters throughout the channel so that ferries can operate between the mainland and Hiiumaa, Estonia's second largest island, even when sea levels are low.
Editor: Aili Vahtla