Law on revitalization of the Oder River published

Ustawa o rewitalizacji rzeki Odry

The Law on Revitalization of the Oder River, after more than two months, has lived to see publication in the Official Gazette. Completed on July 13, 2023. was only published on September 22 of this year (Journal of Laws 2023, item 1963), after a rather long wait for the legislative process to be completed. The law goes into effect on October 7, 2023, with minor exceptions that will take effect the following year.

In the meantime, specifically on July 28, the Senate rejected the document in its entirety, pointing out that the Oder River Revitalization Act is based on the erroneous assumption that construction investments can replace a recovery program based on detailed analyses that include hydrological modeling and an assessment of environmental, economic and social effectiveness.

According to the Senate, “it is impossible to talk about the restoration of the Oder River while at the same time carrying out projects on it that have a destructive impact on the biosphere. Among the 51 investment tasks listed in the law, there is only one restoration investment, but even that involves construction work. The catalog of investments included projects unrelated to the Oder River itself, and thus to the revitalization of its ecosystem, such as. “Construction of the Wielowieś Klasztorna reservoir on the Prosna River (the Prosna River is a left tributary of the Warta River – ed. ).. Moreover, the investments listed in the law conflict with the environmental objectives of the Water Framework Directive.”.

The Senate also has serious reservations about the establishment of the Water Inspectorate. The justification for the rejection resolution reads: The establishment of a unit to comprehensively protect water seems right. However, the Water Inspectorate should not be a part of the organizational structure of the State Water Management Company (Państwowe Gospodarstwo Wodne Polskie), but a specialized environmental police unit with broader competencies.” The Senate’s position was rejected, and on August 28 the President signed the bill unchanged.

The legislature has indicated that the Water Inspectorate will perform water management control tasks and will cooperate with the State Fisheries Service in the prevention and detection of offenses and crimes. We wrote about the activities of the Fishery Guard in the article “Who guards the fish… and anglers from the temptation to catch taaak fish“. The legislator indicates that it is advisable to give the Water Inspectorate powers that will serve to protect fish resources in waters (powers that overlap with the tasks assigned to the Fishery Guard) and to give Water Inspectors the rights to take water and wastewater samples (tasks identical to those of Environmental Inspectors).

As indicated, this may facilitate the implementation of the statutory tasks of the State Water Company in revealing events that may threaten the aquatic environment and the ecosystems that depend on it. It is difficult to disagree with the Senate opinion, which indicates that the powers of the Water Inspectorate will overlap with those of the State Fisheries Service and the Environmental Protection Inspectorate. Only one question arises – why? Perhaps it would be better to strengthen the resources of existing services, instead of creating another and teaching them the rules of operation from scratch.

The Law on Revitalization of the Oder River indicates a good course of action, however, while the direction is right, the methods and ways of implementing these actions may raise some questions – the ways of implementation could take a more innovative and independent direction.

Preventing the use of illegal devices

The Oder River Revitalization Act also introduces several new legal solutions, including. in terms of restricting the use of facilities made illegally, for which the relevant permits and notifications have not been previously obtained. Article 190a, introduced into the Water Law, indicates that the Water Authority, which has jurisdiction over the issuance of a water permit or the filing of a water notification, can use devices to block the discharge of wastewater through an illegal outlet. The procedure for closing the outlet is quick and decisive. In addition, it is the responsibility of the owner to demonstrate the legality of the outlet within 7 days of its closure by PGW WP.

Law on revitalization of the Oder River – Changes in fees

The Law on Revitalization of the Oder River also introduces, as if by the way, a long-awaited exemption from the fixed fee for water abstraction for heat pumps and aquifer heat accumulators. The changes regarding collection fees take effect on January 1, 2024. In future issues of Water Issues, we will bring readers up to date on the changes in fees resulting from the use of heat pumps that extract, use and then discharge water.

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