Questions and answers

Questions and answers

Why Master Plan Ems 2050?

The European Commission demands the implementation of directives that have been in place for a number of years. Lower Saxony has long failed to sufficiently respond to such demands, thereby risking contract violation proceedings. The European Commission now demands the announcement of specific measures aimed at improving the conservation status of the Natura 2000 areas along the Ems. The Master Plan Ems 2050 was the last method accepted by the Commission for avoiding contract violation proceedings.

 

What exactly are the European Commission's demands?

The European Commission criticises the unfavourable conservation status of bird conservation areas within the EU, as well as FFH areas along the Ems in general. The Commission demands that the state districts execute the stipulations in accordance with European law as swiftly as possible. Furthermore, the Commission faults the poor water quality and believes that the Water Framework Directive is being violated. The Commission also accuses Lower Saxony of having exceeded deadlines for designating conservation areas.

What is the purpose of the Master Plan Ems 2050?

Regional players want to draft joint solutions for implementing the EU regulations and avoiding contract violation proceedings and all of the negative ramifications thereof. Together they accept responsibility and will work confidently and constructively in the future. The foundation for this is the Master Plan Ems 2050.

Why is the Master Plan Ems 2050 set to last for 35 years?

The establishment of a natural habitat on the Ems takes time – especially in light of the fact that the underlying deterioration occurred over the span of decades. The Commission has demanded the acquisition of an absolute minimum of 700 hectares of ecological compensation area. This long time period was agreed upon in order to make this plan socially viable.

Who benefits from the Master Plan Ems 2050?

The entire Ems region will benefit from the Master Plan Ems 2050 because it will result in a sound environment, economy, and habitat for people, nature, and business.

Specifically, this means:

  • less environmental pollution and long-term recovery of the Environment
  • the region will be pacified
  • Meyer Werft has legal security for ship crossovers
  • a stronger regional economy. Districts and municipalities will benefit and jobs will be secured

How will the Master Plan Ems 2050 contribute to the regional economy?

According to an assessment from the Lower Saxony Institute for Economic Research (NIW) from 1 July 2014, the Papenburg-based Meyer Werft shipyard contributes significantly to the favourable economic growth of the Emsland and Leer districts. Werft's considerable innovative output will be preserved by the Master Plan Ems 2050 and has the potential for continued growth. Werft offers a broad range of jobs and training opportunities. It directly employs about 3,100 people, 94 per cent of whom reside in the Emsland and Leer districts. The entire direct, indirect, and induced employment effect amounts to about 6,700 jobs throughout the region. Werft has long become associated with the area: the location security contract settled between the state, shipyard, union, and advisory board in January 2015 covers the Papenburg location for at least 15 years, and with it the aforementioned effects for the entire region. 

How will the overriding solution to the silt problem be achieved?

The country and state have agreed on a joint technical model for declaring war on silt contamination in the Ems: the gates of the Ems Barrier should control the tide in such a way that the ebb current carries more sediment out of the Ems than the current prevailing flow current carries into the river. The fundamental feasibility of the "flexible tidal control" was verified in two feasibility studies conducted by the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV) and the Lower Saxony State Organisation for Water Management, Coast and Nature Conservation (NLWKN) with support from renowned technical assessors. Based on this, on 25 January 2017 the Steering Committee of the Master Plan Ems 2050 assigned the preliminary work for a permit process that should result in an approvable, detailed plan. The contract partners expect the tidal control to begin in 2020.

 

What does tidal control mean?

Tidal control means that the locks on the Ems Barrier are used primarily to alter the duration of the incoming tide. The expansions in the Lower Ems resulted in the increase in tidal range and uneven developments in ebb and flow. The duration of the flow phase decreased while that of the ebb phase increased by the same amount. This strengthened the flow, as it had to push the tidal volume into the Ems in a shorter period of time. The resulting asymmetry, especially in conjunction with low headwater runoff levels, resulted in upriver transportation channels for suspended materials. This has also caused very high concentrations of suspended materials around the Lower Ems. Through the temporary shrinking of the cross-section of the Ems because of the locks at the Barrier, the tidal control at the Ems Barrier aims to influence the incoming tide to the Lower Ems in such a way that the resulting influx of materials is reduced. The previous tidal volume should be maintained as much as possible in order to support the current cross-sections in the Lower Ems.

What are tidal reservoirs?

Tidal reservoirs consist of numerous basins along the Ems that gather tidal volume during the flow phase with a bed level beneath the average low tide, and then release this water – with a delay – during the ebb phase. The expansions in the Lower Ems resulted in the increase in tidal range and uneven developments in ebb and flow. The duration of the flow phase decreased while that of the ebb phase increased by the same amount. This strengthened the flow, as it had to push the tidal volume into the Ems in a shorter period of time. The resulting asymmetry, especially in conjunction with low headwater runoff levels, resulted in upriver transportation channels for suspended materials. This has also caused very high concentrations of suspended materials around the Lower Ems. The tidal reservoirs along the Ems work by increasing tidal volume and strengthening the ebb tide, thereby facilitating greater sediment transportation into the sea. 

What are feasibility studies?

The feasibility studies examine the structures for reducing the sediment content of the Ems. They aim to examine technical feasibility and estimate the benefits, spatial requirements, spatial resistance, environmental risks, water management and traffic viability, and compatibility with other measures of the Master Plan Ems 2050. In addition, the resilience of these structures against the effects of rising sea levels and their adaptability/readjustment capacity shall be determined. The duration of the planning and approval processes, and potential implementation thereof, must be conveyed and an approximate cost estimation must be stated.

When will the feasibility studies be complete?

The feasibility study for the weir and tidal control were completed by late 2016. The fundamental feasibility of the "flexible tidal control" was verified in two  studies conducted by the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV) and the Lower Saxony State Organisation for Water Management, Coast and Nature Conservation (NLWKN) with support from renowned technical assessors. Based on this, on 25 January 2017 the Steering Committee of the Master Plan Ems 2050 assigned the preliminary work for a permit process that should result in an approvable, detailed plan. The contract partners expect the tidal control to begin in 2020. The feasibility study for the tidal reservoirs will be completed by late 2018.

Why will the tidal reservoir study be finished later?

The feasibility study on the tidal reservoirs depends on the information that the pilot polder is supposed to provide. To this end the pilot polder must still be constructed, followed by at least one year of monitoring.

 

Why do we need a pilot polder?

With the tidal reservoir pilot measure in an oxbow lake outside Papenburg, it shall be verified that, with regard to the variant with potentially the largest surface requirements, the objectives can be achieved with the mid-term interim morphological development, and not only for the short term. The reason for this is that the sediment contamination leads to silt accumulation in the reservoir, thereby weakening the efficiency of this option. Strategies must thus be developed for the necessary maintenance (dredging) of the reservoirs. A large-scale investigation is necessary, as there are no sufficient grounds for this. Suitable monitoring and accompanying mathematical modelling shall ensure that costs and positive effects, including those on other parameters of water quality of the tidal Ems, can be accounted for. 

Where is the Pilot Polder and how large is it?

The pilot polder is planned in the Vellage oxbow lake (Tunxdorfer loop), with a surface size of about 10 ha. Valuable habitats in this area, such as tidal grazing riparian forest (and areas for its development), freshwater tidelands, and important habitats for reed breeding and resting fowl shall be maintained.

Who does the space intended for the pilot polder belong to?

The planned areas belong to the public authorities. The owners, the federation, and the Emsland and Leer districts have already declared their willingness - namely in the declaration of intent from June 2014 – to support the land in the acquisition of the necessary space for this measure.

How is an option selected?

A task force appointed by the Steering Committee accompanies the development of the three feasibility studies and drafts a coordinated measure recommendation based on the catalogues of objectives and assessments, regarding which the Steering Committee will then make a decision and recommend the steps required for implementation.

What is space management?

Space management means the acquisition of land by the state of Lower Saxony by 2050, in the following increments:

  • 200 ha by 2025,
  • a total of 400 ha by 2035,
  • a total of 600 ha in 2045 and

a total of 700 ha by 2050.

Who conducts the space management?

Space Management is conducted by The Office for Regional Development, Weser and Ems Region.

What is the space required for?

 The space is required for the following measures:

  • Typical estuary habitats in tidal biotopes and tidal polders on 500 ha by 2050, and
  • meadow bird habitats, primarily inland and outside of existing FFH conservation areas on 200 ha by 2050.

Compensation or coherency areas required to implement measures of the Master Plan Ems 2050 for natural conservation regulations can be counted toward the 700 ha.

 

Why 700 ha?

The European Commission's initial demand of 1,500 ha was cut by more than half, to 700 ha. There neither was nor is any further room for downward negotiation. Throughout the negotiations, the environmental associations ultimately agreed upon signing the Master Plan Ems 2050 that the space management team will acquire said 700 ha by the year 2050.

Where are the 700 ha located?

The target area from which the 700 ha are supposed to be acquired throughout the next 35 years comes can be found on a map attached to the Master Plan as an appendix to Article 11 paragraph 2. The target area map can also be found on the homepage. The state will work toward even distribution of the measures within the target area during the space management process so as to avoid any disproportional strain on the Leer district.

How large is the target area?

The primary target area for land acquisition encompasses a total area of about 144,000 ha, of which the 700 ha required do not even make up 0.5 per cent. Taking the current agricultural land in the target area as a basis, about 1 per cent of this land would be incorporated into the space management programme.

Will agricultural business be affected?

The degree to which agricultural businesses will be affected varies from one case to the next, e.g. due to location, current and future use of land, the financial situation of owners or tenants, the location and characteristics of any potential land for substitution, etc. It is thus not possible to make any general statements concerning the consequences of the acquisition of the 700 ha by 2050 at the current time.

How will the space be acquired?

Primarily through purchase and land replacement.

Will there be any expropriation?

No. Consent from the respective landowner is required for the implementation of all measures.

Will land be consolidated?

Land consolidation is unlikely, and will only be considered if it is legally possible, and acquisition and replacement are insufficient.

Who will be involved in acquiring the land?

The Office for Regional State Development Weser-Ems is the primary leader. The Departments of Regional State Development, EU Assistance, Land Consolidation, Land Management, Domain Administration, and State Marshland Admnistration are also involved there. A Steering Committee will be appointed. This Committee will include representatives from: Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture; three regional representatives of agricultural interest associations; two regional representatives of dyke, water, and soil associations; the Lower Saxony State Organisation for Water Management, Coast and Nature Conservation (NLWKN); three natural conseration groups (BUND, NABU, and WWF); the districts Emsland, Leer, and Aurich; and the city of Emden.

What does the Steering Board make decisions on?

The Steering Committee sets the guidelines for the search for and acquisition of suitable land, and helps determine management objectives. It provides support during the search for the required agriculturally compliant and individual company solutions, and considers the water management requirements, flood protection demands, and equality of space distribution throughout the entire target area.

Who determines the other measures, especially those from the appendix to Article 13?

The measures in Article 13 of the Master Plan Ems 2050 are suggestions that must first be assessed by the appointed task force. If this assessment declares that the objectives of the Master Plan Ems 2050 can be achieved with this measure, it will be submitted to the Steering Committee at least once per year. The Steering Committee will then make a unanimous decision to recommend execution to the respective representative of the measure.

 

How are these measures financed?

Every recommendation to the Steering Committee must include information on the financing situation. The Master Plan Ems 2050 stipulates that the federal and state governments are responsible for financing the individual measures within the scope of their legal accountability. If municipalities or districts are responsible for implementing measures at the order of the state, the state is financially responsible by community law. Furthermore, on a case-by-case basis a regulation between municipal bodies and the state must be made if they are also performing additional tasks pertaining to the Master Plan Ems 2050.

Have the respective locations been definitively set?

No, the determination of a location first concerns a target area. Should a suggested measure not be considered feasible, this will also not be executed. Another measure must then be determined. The catalogue in the appendix to Article 13 is not definitive.

 

Are affected landowners or dyke associations not involved in the execution of measures?

Of course they are, as every measure may only be implemented with consent from the affected landowners or respective dyke association.

 

Will the Coldemüntje measure be implemented at the expense of the building and agricultural property located there?

The areas there entirely belong to the public sector, except for some very small plots located around the edge. These can be omitted from future planning. There is no intent to submerge the building of the Muhde sluice land. The detailed plans show how the building shall be protected.

Article 13 discusses the assessment of an opening in the overflow dams. What does that mean?

Areas equipped with overflow dams can still be found in some parts of the Ems estuary. The goal is to develop typical estuary habitats, which are made possible by unhindered tidal patterns. Either the overflow dam has to be completely removed, or opened on time. It must be determined whether that is actually possible. The usage of private property to this end is only possible if the landowner has provided their consent (namely by selling the land).

Who is responsible for the Ems nature conservation station and how is it staffed?

It is a state-operated nature conservation station, and organisationally it is managed by the Brake-Oldenburg branch office of the NLWKN. It is staffed by two full-time employees. The provisional location is the federal state office in Leer, and is expected to move to a location along the Ems in the Leer district this summer.

What does it cost to implement the Master Plan Ems 2050?

The contract parties are entering uncharted territory with the Master Plan Ems 2050. Given the long duration of the contract, nobody yet knows how costly it will be to restore the Ems. Time will show which measures will be suitable and necessary over 35 years. As a result, it is impossible to determine the overall financial expenses.

 

Who will bear the expenses?

The Master Plan Ems 2050 stipulates that the federal and state governments are responsible for financing the individual measures within the scope of their legal accountability. If municipalities or districts are responsible for implementing measures at the order of the state, the state is financially responsible by community law. Furthermore, on a case-by-case basis a regulation between municipal bodies and the state must be made if they are also performing additional tasks pertaining to the Master Plan Ems 2050.

Who is on the Steering Committee?

The Steering Committee includes representatives from

 

  • the Federal Waterway Administration (as the Ems is a federal waterway)
  • the environmental associations BUND, NABU and WWF
  • the districts of Emsland and Leer, as well as the city of Emden
  • the Meyer Werft shipyard and
  • the state of Lower Saxony.


The state is represented on the Steering Committee by the state secretaries of the State Chancellery, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Commerce, and the State Department of Agriculture. The Steering Committee may invite guest representatives depending on the topic at hand. However, only the regular members are authorised to vote.

 

What are the responsibilities of the Steering Committee?

The Steering Committee exclusively makes recommendations. It provides consultation as to how the objectives can be achieved and which steps, and especially which measures, are suitable and necessary to this end. Legal responsibilities for the implementation of said measures are unaffected.

 

Is the Steering Committee a recent idea?

No. The previous governments also appointed the "Ems" Steering Committee. Its members are also embers of the Steering Committee, in addition to the City of Emden, which also helped negotiate the Master Plan Ems 2050.

 

Why are the Meyer Werft shipyard and the three environmental associations represented in the Steering Committee?

When the negotiations commenced under great pressure in summer 2014, the state government used the committee structure established by the previous government for purposes of work efficiency. Meyer Werft and the three environmental associations BUND, NABU, and WWF were already represented in the Ems Steering Committee from the very beginning. Throughout the negotiations it became apparent that the city of Emden may also be affected. Emden was then incorporated as a member of the Ems Steering Committee and has participated in negotiations since autumn 2014.

It must also be noted that the allocation of responsibilities stipulated by state and federal law is unaffected by the Master Plan Ems 2050. Neither Meyer Werft nor the environmental associations will make decisions as to which specific measures should be taken. They, like the other members of the Steering Committee, only provide suggestions. The composition of the Steering Committee, which includes Meyer Werft and the environmental associations, shall be pacifying in nature.

 

Is the Steering Committee democratically authorised?

The Steering Committee would only need to be democratically authorised if it made decisions that could only be made by democratically elected representatives of the people. This is not the case, as the Steering Committee only provides recommendations as to which measures are suitable and necessary and should be taken in order to restore the Ems and fulfil the requirements of European law. The federal, state, or municipal government are legally responsible for implementing these measures. They then execute the necessary procedures and make definitive decisions concerning the measure.

 

Will the Master Plan Ems 2050 encroach on municipal planning sovereignty?

No, because the Steering Committee only makes recommendations. The decision as to whether the municipalities will implement the recommended measure remains with the respective municipality within the bounds of their legal responsibility. However, as in the past, they must consider the needs of environmental and nature conservation, as well as preservation of the landscape.

 

Why does the Steering Committee vote unanimously?

The Steering Committee's recommendations require unanimity. To this end, the regional players, as well as the federal and state, must incorporate their interests early on and be able to coordinate them together. This helps prevent conflicts that would otherwise only become clear at the implementation stage.

 

What are the benefits of membership in the Steering Committee?

Regardless of the fact that the Steering Committee cannot influence the legal planning sovereignty of the municipal governments and other administrative bodies, membership in the Steering Committee grants more than a vote: the districts and other members of the Steering Committee are involved in the very early stages of consideration that involve the federal and state governments in the consultation proceedings for resolving the problems along the Ems.

Have all contract partners agreed to the Master Plan Ems 2050?

All contract partners have agreed to it and signed it.

What would have happened if the Master Plan Ems 2050 had not been agreed on?

The European Union would immediately threaten Germany with contract violation proceedings. The environmental associations would abstain from their ability to sue only on the condition that the Master Plan Ems 2050 comes into effect – Meyer Werft would otherwise have no legal security for ship crossovers.

How extensive is the environmental associations' non petendo agreement upon conclusion of the contract?

The environmental associations' non petendo agreement legally validates the authorised expansion of shipping crossover opportunities from 15 to 31 March (so-called March realignment) of any given year. It also applies to all potential crossovers within this period. The non petendo agreement for the so-called autumn realignment (16 September to 31 October) secure crossovers in autumn until 2019. It is to be assumed that enough experience will be acquired by then to allow the assessment of crossovers thereafter.

What is the process for contract violation proceedings?

During contract violation proceedings, the Commission decides whether it will sue the member state (in this case, Germany) for violation of European law before the European Court of Justice. If the member state is party to such proceedings, the verdict must immediately be enforced. Should the member state not (promptly) adhere to this verdict, Phase 2 of the proceedings commences. The European Court of Justice may then impose fines on the member state.

 

How high is the penalty?

If Germany is sentenced by the European Court of Justice, it must be noted that the court may set both a penalty and a lump sum. These fines may be very high. Germany's economic strength, as well as the duration and severity of the contract violation, determine the amount fined. A daily penalty in the middle 6-digit range, and a considerable lump sum, should be expected.

 

What is the IMP Ems?

The Integrated Management Plan (IMP) Ems is a joint set of plans between Lower Saxony and the Netherlands. It is a collection of recommendations, coordinated by public and private interest groups in Lower Saxony and the Netherlands, for improving the overall ecology of the Ems estuary. The objective is to consolidate interests: the demands of German, Dutch, and European environmental and water conservation, and the demands of the maritime economy and society. The IMP Ems does not anticipate any individual weighing of interests for the subsequent permit proceedings. 

 

Is the IMP Ems legally binding?

No, the IMP Ems is not legally binding. It is an advisory, interdisciplinary plan.

Where can I ask further questions?

Please direct questions to the press spokesman at the Master Plan Ems 2050 branch office at the Office for Regional State Development Weser-Ems, Herrn Thorsten Kuchta