On 8 February 2012, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report that responded to the recommendations of the ICOMOS advisory mission invited by the State Party to consider the potential impact of the Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project. The mission was carried out from 4 to 6 April 2011. By that time, planning for the Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project had been completed, and initial construction work had already commenced.
a) Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project:
The Dam Project is part of a National Plan for Dams of High Hydroelectric Potential developed by the Government of Portugal in 2007.
The proposed Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project would be located one kilometre from where the River Tua joins the River Douro. It consists of a dam and reservoir in the buffer zone of the World Heritage property and a hydro-electric power station located 400 m downstream from the dam within the boundaries of the property. Associated infrastructure, such as power lines, would also be located within the property. Overall the area affected within the property would cover 2.9 ha (out of the property’s total area of 24,600 ha).
The dam would reach a height of 90 m above the river and would have a span of 270 metres. It would create a reservoir located in the buffer zone that would flood an estimated 421 ha of the Tua valley.
The Dam Project, despite being considered in the National Energy Plan dated 1989 and the Douro River Basin Plan 1999, was not mentioned in the nomination file. In 2008 the Portuguese Water Institute promoted a public tender for the project. The project was conditionally approved in 2010. The State Party only notified the World Heritage Centre of the project upon request in 2010. At the time of the mission, impacts of the project were still being evaluated by the national environmental authorities.
b) Results of the ICOMOS Advisory Mission:
The mission noted that although an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) had been undertaken this did not include an assessment of the impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
The mission considered the potential impact of the overall project on the property and concluded that if the Outstanding Universal Value of the landscape had been taken into consideration, the EIA would have determined that the project would have a profound effect on a wide area of the property, resulting in the permanent physical loss of part of the cultural landscape.
The mission considered that the impact on the Outstanding Universal Value would thus be severe and irreversible. The mission did not consider that the impact of the dam could be mitigated, as suggested by the State Party, by the creation of initiatives that would maintain the memory of the cultural and natural heritage affected by the dam, or by the creation of a museum. The project would not contribute to the key management aim of conserving and improving the living, evolving vini-cultural landscape that was set out at the time of inscription. Overall, the mission considered that the Management Plan had not been put into action and that there was a lack of an overall effective management system.
The mission recommended that the State Party reconsider the Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project as part of a review of the overall National Programme of Dams for High Hydroelectric Power Potential. It also considered that the management system for the property needed revising and consideration should be given to strengthening protection for the setting of the property.
c) Main Points of the State Party’s State of Conservation Report:
In its report, the State Party stated that the Foz Tua Hydro-electric Dam Project had been put out to public consultation between 6 December 2011 and 31 January 2012. It also stated that projects such as this may only go ahead after a favourable or conditionally favourable Environmental Impact Assessment is issued by the Secretary of State for Environmental and Territorial Planning. The deadline for issuing such document was 12 April 2012. However, on 11 May 2009 the project already received a conditionally favourable EIA.
In its comments on the mission report, the State Party stated that water had been extracted from the River Douro since the 1950s and this had added to the scenic and heritage value of the property. It also stated that, as the property is considered as an evolving cultural landscape, ‘life’ and ‘evolution’ should continue to be assured. The dam would not impact specifically on the vineyards, which it sees as the core attributes of the property.
Further the State Party stated that amended designs had been drawn up for the buildings and associated structures, some of which are now proposed to be put underground in order to reduce their visual impact. The power plant has been divided into two buildings and the slope of the reservoir adjusted to 45 degrees. No detailed plans were provided.
Construction started in April 2011 and is continuing. Work has been undertaken on excavations on the River Tua downstream river bed as far as the river mouth, the dam abutments on both banks, and the exterior platform of the power plant. Over 70% of the power plant access tunnel is underway. Excavation work is complete on the River Tua diversion tunnel and the access routes to the construction site. The State Party recognizes that the project involves major construction work causing significant transformations at local level. However, it states that the development of the project will be based on ‘premises of landscape integration’.
The report also refers to a draft retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value that was submitted to the World Heritage Centre in February 2012, and it further states that the Management Plan is to be reviewed, taking into account the monitoring of the state of conservation of the cultural landscape.
Finally, the State Party underlines its readiness for cooperation and expresses its wish that another mission be carried out by the Advisory Bodies as soon as possible to verify the state of the development and to access all affected and potentially affected places of the property.