When the water authorities issue decisions applying to a protected river system pursuant to this Act, the interest of its conservation value shall be given preponderant weight. The water authorities may reject an application for a licence without further consideration. – Section 35(8)
Many river systems are permanently protected against hydropower developments. In Norway, the Norwegian legislature – known as the Storting – adopted four protection plans between 1973 and 1993, with supplements in 2005 and 2009. These plans are referred to collectively as the Protection Plan for Watercourses.
The plan constitutes binding instructions that the public administration will not grant licences for the regulation or development of specific river systems for power production purposes. In evaluating which river systems should be protected, it was considered important to ensure that a representative selection of Norwegian river systems was protected. Any distinctive features and opportunities for outdoor recreation in the respective areas were also considered important.
A total of 388 river systems or parts of river systems with a hydropower potential of 49.5 TWh/year are protected against hydropower development. The Water Resources Act made the protection of these river systems statutory. The Act defines protected river systems, and lays down rules for their protection both against hydropower developments and against other types of disturbances. The Water Resources and Energy Directorate has the overall responsibility for managing protected river systems.
Photo: A view to Romsdalen from the Litlefjellet ridge between Romsdalen and Vengedalen, Møre og Romsdal, Norway. Photo courtesy of Ximonic (Simo Räsänen) via Wikimedia Commons.