TALLINN – The environmental impact assessments (EIAs) required for the construction of the Rail Baltic railway have already been approved for five out of the project's eight sections in Estonia, officials said on Monday.
Prior to the latest bundle of approvals, the most recent approval by the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) was for a 19-kilometer section of the track from Kangru to the border of Harju and Rapla counties, Rail Baltic Estonia said in a press release.
Kart Mae, environmental manager at Rail Baltic Estonia, said the impact assessment process has progressed at a good pace.
"As things stand, five EIA sections out of eight, or practically half of the railway's route in Estonia, have been deemed as meeting the requirements of the TTJA," Mae said. According to current plans, construction on these sections could begin within a couple of years.
The EIA for the 39.3-kilometer section of the railway from Hagudi to the border of Rapla and Parnu counties was carried out simultaneously with the preparation of the railway's main design. The section in the central and southern parts of Rapla County passes mostly through sparsely populated areas, where there are agricultural and forest lands between settlements. Of Natura 2000 sites, the Taarikonnu-Kaisma bird sanctuary, which is protected nationally as a permanent habitat of capercaillie in the part affected by the Rail Baltic, will be within the scope of the planned activity. Possible impacts and nuisances will be mitigated by noise barriers.
An EIA was also carried out for a 16-kilometer section of Rail Baltic from the border of Rapla and Parnu counties to Tootsi in the northern part of Parnu county. The goal of the environmental experts, the party preparing the design and the developer of the railway was to find suitable solutions to prevent negative environmental impacts and to find out the most effective mitigation measures that would ensure possibilities for the movement of animals, preserve the quality of habitats and prevent game from getting on the railway.
Said section of the route is located in the zone of forests and marshes of central Estonia and passes through three large corridors of the green network, but passes by the base areas of the green network. According to Rail Baltic Estonia, the impacts will be mitigated by the construction of numerous animal crossings. To ensure the effectiveness of large animal crossings -- three ecoducts will be built along the route -- the EIA proposes the creation of protection zones with a radius of 500 meters.
Negative impacts on the water regime can be mitigated by closing an old ditch on the edge of the nature site. To monitor the effectiveness of the mitigation measure, water regime monitoring is foreseen in the area likely to be affected. There will be no adverse effects on the integrity and conservation objectives of the Taarikonnu nature reserve when the mitigation measure is implemented.