Dredging in the Elbe
Photo: Axel Heimken / dpa
The deepening of the Elbe, which was planned for almost two decades and cost around 800 million euros, could still fail due to the silt, according to an internal presentation by the Hamburg port authority HPA.
If the problem of the port's silting up is not resolved soon, "no traffic clearance for the new target depths could be made in the coming year," the weekly newspaper "Die Zeit" quotes from the 15-page HPA document.
The words "no traffic release" are in bold and underlined.
The HPA declined to comment on Thursday and referred to the economic authority.
When asked, she called the presentation "an unauthorized preliminary version of a paper from the HPA that was later revised again by the HPA".
She refused to give any further information.
Dredging costs 100 million euros every year
Sludge that was washed into the Elbe with the tide has long been a major problem for shipping in Hamburg.
To keep the port navigable, the city spends almost 100 million euros on dredging work every year.
After the HPA paper, the situation could now worsen.
Since there may be less and less water in the Elbe due to climate change and correspondingly less silt is flushed out of the port at low tide, there could be "a no longer controllable sediment accumulation in Hamburg".
Another problem is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find places to dump the silt.
Almost two thirds of the deposit agreed with Schleswig-Holstein in the North Sea south of Heligoland at buoy E3 has already been used up.
"Hamburg needs an additional transfer point by March 2021 in order to be able to gradually and effectively reduce the prevailing sediment surplus," quotes "Zeit" from the presentation.
Where should the silt be dumped?
From the point of view of the HPA, this could be north of the island of Scharhörn in the Elbe estuary.
However, the area borders directly on the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park with the Neuwerk island, which belongs to Hamburg.
From the point of view of the Lebendige Tideelbe action alliance - an amalgamation of the environmental associations BUND, Nabu and WWF - this is "hard to beat in terms of political impertinence".
The alliance demanded a stop of the deepening of the Elbe, a statement by Mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD) and the disclosure of all plans.
The economic authority declared: "The Senate does not comment on its negotiating positions and strategies for fairway maintenance in the Elbe area."
The environmental authority would have to decide on a - not yet available - application to dump it in front of Scharhörn.
She explained: "We continue to rely on a broad, open-ended dialogue with neighbors, neighbors and associations in order to develop a future strategy for the Port of Hamburg and the Elbe as a habitat."
In the Tideelbe Forum, too, advice on electricity engineering measures is given.
"As soon as we have specific applications for optimized sediment management, we will examine them and support them constructively."
Criticism from the opposition
Clear criticism came from the CDU and the left in the Hamburg parliament.
The CDU parliamentary group called for the "nonsensical circular dredging" to be ended at last and for the silt in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to be dumped far off the North German coast.
"It takes revenge that the port authority HPA is not fully able to act and the technical management was left vacant by the Senator for Economic Affairs," said the CDU economic expert Götz Wiese.
The Senate must now finally give the issue top priority.
According to the Left, the problem is not easy to get to grips with the designation of new dumping grounds for dredged silt.
"The current deepening of the Elbe will exacerbate the problem again."
Icon: The mirror
beb / dpa