Sivens dam: lack of consensus, the state regains control

The essentials On Monday, March 29th, the State Secretary for Biodiversity brought together the actors of the Sivens Valley Territory Project. A mediator is appointed and studies continue.

This Monday, March 29, Bérangère Abba, Secretary of State for Biodiversity, finally announced the government’s position on the development of the Tescou Valley area project in the form of a video conference. It had brought all the protagonists of the co-construction body together. Since 2017, agricultural unions, environmental groups and elected officials have been trying to reach an agreement on water management following the termination of the Sivens reservoir project and the death of environmental activist Rémi Fraisse.

After more than 200 meetings and 900,000 euros, the foreign minister admitted that there was no consensus. Even if the two co-chairs of the area project at the end of December 2020 believed that it was now time to move on to a concrete phase. It won’t be.

Appointment of a mediator

Bérangère Abba: “We are in an area whose history we cannot forget. Much work was done over four years that made it possible to move forward. The answer is a balance between economic and environmental issues. It is necessary to get rid of postures in which these issues are supposed to be incompatible. Both the memory of Rémi Fraisse and the crisis we are going through require that we follow a common path in this response. “

In order to give the area project a chance again, the government will appoint a mediator in the coming days to continue the attempts at conciliation and to reach an agreement. She felt that he wasn’t that far away.

However, the State Secretary for Biodiversity believes that technical and operational studies still need to be carried out.

When the various actors have agreed on the need for water in the valley over these four years, the way to achieve this is still to legally share. There is disagreement on the type of work to be done and the amounts to consider for irrigation and low water support. In particular, the opportunity to build a new reservoir in Sivens, a place full of symbolism.

Bérangère Abba also admitted that compromises and an assessment of the costs of the upcoming projects still need to be made. In addition to the appointment of a mediator, the state will create a legal framework for the continuation of the consultation.

Wetland study

A study on the definition of wetlands in the valley will be carried out in the coming weeks. It should take several months. At the same time, the Foreign Minister wants the elected officials affected by the valley to work on various construction projects with their impact assessments. Incidentally, she is of the opinion that the associations’ alternative projects must also be examined.

This work is carried out by the government services within a regulatory framework in order to comply with national and European legislation. Bérangère Abba also wants to support the transition to agroecology. “There is a will to move forward in a clear timetable for operational solutions,” said the Foreign Minister, who is careful not to let the end happen.

Key data

2007: The Department Council starts the dam project in Sivens.
September 2014: Deforestation work begins.
Environmentalists reject the project. A ZAD is set up.
Night from 25th to 26th October 2014: Death of environmental activist Rémi Fraisse, who was hit by an offensive grenade thrown by a gendarme.
December 2015: The Sivens dam project is finally abandoned by government decision.
July 2016: The administrative court repeals the founding decrees of the project.
2017: The area project for the Tescou Valley is started.

Creation of a mixed association in the valley

On Monday, the Secretary of State for Biodiversity also announced that she would like to see the constitution of a mixed union to take on the role of owner. He would be responsible for running and funding the various projects to meet the valley’s water needs. Bérangère Abba did not propose any of the solutions recommended in the documents of the Co-Construction Body. In the studies defining the water requirement for the non-refilled portion of the Tescou volume of 473,000 m3 for agricultural withdrawals and 200,000 m3 for the natural environment, she believes this is “a point of reference that needs to be refined”. . It is therefore up to the local authorities to define the different options before presenting them to the prefect.

This mixed association was to be built around the intercommunalities along the Tescou valley in Tarn and Tarn-et-Garonne. If so, one might wonder what place environmental groups will find in this organization. Some of them, interviewed last night, said they were very vigilant on the issue, according to the elected officials who might run this mixed union.

The construction committee currently chaired by Bernard Pezous and the Mayor of Lisle-sur-Tarn Marilyne Lherm must be retained. “This body is the place where all parties can be consulted,” assured the Foreign Minister. But she adds that she has no decision-making power. It will be up to the future mixed union to propose work projects.

Finally, Bérangère Abba works to ensure that all reports from the work of the past four years are published on the premises of the prefecture. The last accessible note is from 2017. It is therefore difficult to know what the 900,000 euros spent over the past four years were used for.

So we have to wait until the future of the Tescou Valley takes shape. The area project is not dead. In a calendar that also includes election deadlines, the government has saved time and made commitments to all players.