Consulting and GAP analysis for the Department of Environment on the EIA of EuroAsia Interconnection

Coral_Deep_MER

Duration:              2 months (October 2017 - November 2017)

Funded by:            Department of Environment Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, Cyprus 

 

 

 

MER was conducted by the Department of Environment to provide specialized consultancy services by identifying gaps and weaknesses on a conducted Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the construction and operation of EuroAsia Interconnection. Then, MER has set terms & conditions which should be addressed for the EIA to be accepted by the policy makers. 

 

 

Project Description:

The project aims for the construction of an electrical interconnector between Greece, Cyprus and Israel and is classified by the European Commission as a Project of Common Interest. The project is separated in two phases with an estimated duration of 6 months for each phase. Only the first phase is covered by the EIA and it involves the installation of two cables for each route (towards Israel and towards Greece) as well as the development of the facilities required for the converter stations. Up to 10 m depth, the cable will be installed below the sediment through Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD). From 10-40 m depth, the cable will be laid on top of the seabed without any excavation process and will be protected using concrete mattresses (3 m wide) along the entire length. beyond this depth a canal will be dredged and the cable will be buried as deep as ~0.6 m unless the substratum is rocky; in this case the cable will be laid and covered on top with cement blocks (mattresses or bags) for protection purposes. For depths between 40 m and 700 m, the cable will be installed through the excavation processes described above, whereas beyond 700 m of depth, the cable will be laid without protection and there will be no excavation procedure on top of the seabed. During the construction procedure and the operational phase, the marine environment and marine biological communities will be subjected to several types of pressures. Impacts described in the EIA include: 1) Seabed disturbance, 2) Noise Pollution, 3) Light Pollution, 4) Sediment re-suspension & increased turbidity, 5) Changes in water quality and 6) Exposure to electromagnetic fields and increased temperature.

Within the framework of the EIA, an environmental baseline survey (EBS) was conducted to establish a ‘good’ baseline of understanding of the habitat structure and community of species, to identify, map and characterise sensitive or priority species and habitats and set the monitoring descriptors. This would have allowed proper assessment of the impacts on marine ecosystems and proper monitoring of the project’s impacts during construction and operational stage.

MER’s EIA examination identified a range of gaps and weaknesses, which masked the characteristics of the potential field operations such as location of the cable, method and period of implementation. Additionally, there was no appropriate baseline description, and thus a potential monitoring plan would have been strongly limited by the lack of knowledge regarding the pre-existing conditions and any comparisons would be biased and based on assumptions. Specifically, no bioindicators were applied; biodiversity assessment was poor for the most important habitats such as rocky reefs, sandy expansions, Cystoseira forests and Posidonia oceanica meadows. In addition the biodiversity assessment was not evaluated quantitatively based on globally recognized standard methodologies (underwater visual census e.g. quadrat sampling or transect sampling), but was rather observational. The analysis of benthic fauna, which was sampled via a Van Veen Grab was found inadequate and lacking crucial information. In short the EIA and the EBS neglected the criteria of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), through which are essential components within the EU context for the preservation of biodiversity, the seafloor ecosystem functioning and water quality.

Following the gap analysis report, MER has set some terms and conditions which should be addressed for policy makers to approve the construction of the project. 

 Contact information of project coordinator
 Demetris Kletou
 Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
 Tel. #: (+357) 99527679

 

 

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