PressUre on Ports: eValUatinG eU HaBitats leGislation

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In many parts of the world, port development and economic activities regularly come into conflict with the desire to conserve valuable habitats. Europe is no different and in many cases this has led to wide-ranging European Union legislation to protect and conserve fauna, in particular birds, flora and certain habitats. A difficult situation arises when a port authority, trying to plan ahead, purchases land for future expansion. This land may not be used immediately and therefore lies fallow allowing habitats to evolve. These habitats are then, sometimes unbeknownst to the port authority, classified as "special area of conservation" and the port is not allowed to use the land for economic and commercial expansion, as was its original intention. Starting in 1979, EU habitats legislation expanded considerably, but not necessarily with clarity. After more than 25 years of evolving legislation, which includes designating certain sites as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and others as Special Areas of Conservation or SACs, the European Dredging Association (EuDA) Environmental Committee has made an evaluation of the impact these directives are having on port expansion, including several important case studies. In particular Article 6 of the Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 may 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive) and its impacts are examined.

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... Port developments and economic activities in general regularly conflict with the desire to conserve estuarine and coastal habitats (Mink et al. 2007). The question as to whether there is a possibility of significant effects has been a stumbling block for many plans and projects. ...
... In many cases, the port authority’s opinion had no influence on the designation of a site as a valuable nature area, and the planned future use of an expanded facility had not been taken into consideration. If a planned expansion ultimately went according to plan, the additional costs for procedural matters, for environmental damage compensation, and for resulting delays, fell entirely on the project developer (Mink et al. 2007). The EU Commission’s DG Environment, supported by NGOs, responded by saying that the Directives were misunderstood and, if well used, could be a positive element in economic development (Schmedtje and Kremer 2008). ...
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Building with Nature is a new approach to designing water infrastructure, one that seeks to realize socioeconomic project goals in harmony with the environment. The Dutch dredging industry is promoting its application in the Netherlands, but similar concepts are emerging internationally. The Working with Nature concept has been developed under the auspices of the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure, Engineering with Nature by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and Flanders Bays 2100 by a group of Belgian dredging companies and international consultants. The research discussed in this article focuses on the feasibility of implementing the Building with Nature approach in the context of EU Natura 2000 governance. The initial expectation of the industry was that Natura 2000 regulations would obstruct innovative Building with Nature attempts. The empirical evidence points to a shift toward Building with Nature have taken place on the governance and project levels, and the goals of Natura 2000 and Building with Nature converging in practice. Using specific project-level variables identified by researchers, guidance for project development in Natura 2000 areas was proposed. We conclude by discussing the implications of the research results for the dredging industry dealing with Natura 2000 regulations in Europe and similar overarching nature regulations elsewhere.
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