Le Figaro Nice
In his own way, the Minister of Ecological Transition, Christophe Béchu, is sounding the end of recess. The reconstruction of the valleys devastated by storms Alex and Aline in the Alpes-Maritimes is too serious a matter. Too expensive too. Since the passage of the first one at the end of September 2020, conflicts - sometimes violent - have been linked around reconstruction work, mainly in the Vésubie. Here the construction sites would have come to a standstill, there they would never have started and there again they would have been botched. Not to mention the cases of "accounting anomalies" in the settlement of certain works, which further exacerbate tensions.
Dissensions are rightly motivated by the general interest and the sense of the common good, but which are always based on deep political rivalries. In this case, between the Mayor of Nice and President of the Metropolis, Christian Estrosi, whose local authority is leading the majority of the projects, and the Alpes-Maritimes Department in its President of the Finance Commission, Éric Ciotti. The LR boss never misses an opportunity to denounce the "inertia" shown by the community of his best enemy on this tempestuous subject.
Read alsoStorm Alex: this internal document on the financing of the works that sows trouble around Christian Estrosi
Independent design office
But that was before Minister Béchu announced the mandate of an independent design firm to carry out checks in 2024, "guaranteeing the quality of the work". In accordance with the commitment made during his visit to Saint-Martin-Vésubie on 23 October the day after Aline's passage through the valley, the Minister chaired the Reconstruction Council from Paris on Tuesday afternoon. The meeting took place in the presence of the presidents of the local authorities concerned or their representatives, the parliamentarians concerned and the 27 mayors of the municipalities affected by storm Alex. In addition to the design office, whose name is not yet known, it was noted at the meeting that "almost all of the State's appropriations dedicated to reconstruction, i.e. 300 million euros, have been committed". In any case, this is what the ministry assures in a press release.
This was a way of calming the ardour of Christian Estrosi who, during a metropolitan council meeting at the end of September, railed against the alleged reluctance of the State to open the till. "We are not facing a weather war with peacetime laws," he said, adding that an emergency investment plan should be put in place. "In 2020, we had the emergency procedures. Now we don't have them. I ask the State to extend them so as not to be blocked," he said.
Read alsoStorm Aline: the state of natural disaster recognized for 10 municipalities in the Alpes-Maritimes
Mayor Horizons was nevertheless heard since Christophe Béchu, also a member of Édouard Philippe's party, announced during the Council that "exceptional reconstruction funds will be mobilized over the next two
years, in order to finalize the projects underway." With regard to the post-storm Aline works, the State has also issued an order recognising the urgent nature of certain works to be carried out in waterways. "This order will facilitate the implementation of the works to repair the consequences of Aline or accelerate definitive work to secure the banks," the statement said.
In addition, "an inter-ministerial support mission for the assessment of the damage and the calculation of the post-Aline solidarity grant" is to be launched in the coming weeks. In short, it is a question of looking in the rear-view mirror at what has been done in terms of work in the valleys to establish a better strategy in the future. Above all, it is a question of removing operational or even regulatory blockages, which sometimes paralyze construction sites for several months. On this point, the mayor of Nice quickly tweeted to thank the minister "for his willingness to support local authorities in overcoming regulatory hurdles as quickly as possible."
"We can only welcome the fact that things are moving forward and that the state is showing its presence. But I would have liked us to validate a working method together and to stop with the principle of planning that comes only from the ministry."
Martine Barengo-Ferrier, Mayor of La Bollène-Vésubie.
Finally, ten projects selected as part of a public consultation launched in 2022 have been chosen to be funded to the tune of six million euros to support the development of the valleys. "These projects concern all the affected valleys and cover various areas: tourism, agriculture, mobility, housing," the ministry said.
With the possible exception of Christian Estrosi, none of the elected representatives were happy at the end of the Reconstruction Council. "The mayors weren't even able to ask a single question because Christophe Béchu had to go to the government's questions... It's a shame," said one participant in the meeting. "They're going to do as they said, and then that's it. We won't have a say," said Lœtitia Loré, the mayor of Venanson, a small town in the Vésubie region. His counterpart from Bollène-Vésubie, Martine Barengo-Ferrier, agreed: "We can only be pleased that things are moving forward and that the State is showing its presence. But I would have liked us to validate a working method together rather than presenting us with a plan that comes only from the ministry."
Read alsoStorm Aline: Alpes-Maritimes announces release of 15 million euros for the valleys
No timetable or quantified commitment
Another elected official was harsher on the mayor of Nice: "A consultation with local elected officials? What for? Christian Estrosi wanted to show once again that he was the strongest and that everything was for the best in the best of all possible worlds. His mantra is simple: those who criticize or disagree with him are playing politics. He, of course, doesn't do politics and everything is great!" In a message published on the social network X, the deputy (LR) of the 5th constituency of the Alpes-Maritimes, Christelle D'Intorni, said she regretted that "no quantified commitment or timetable" had been put forward by the minister.