Estonian Stakeholders Meeting in Parnu

BaltCoast project partner Institute of Ecology, Tallinn University held a meeting at Pärnu Environmental Education Center on the 10th of September 2015 to discuss with Estonian stakeholders BaltCoast objectives and develop Pärnu case study area's issue topics. A brief overview on SAF and SWOT methods presented and re-analysis study sites introduced Järve-Mändjala coastal area as the main recreation area on Saaremaa Island and Kunda – a major port and industrial center on the northern coast of Estonia.

Professor Jaak Jaagus from the University of Tartu delivered a short lecture on climatic conditions and trends in Pärnu and made some predictions for the future based on climate change scenarios and different climatic models.

Doctor Robert Aps from the Estonian Marine Institute gave a brief overview of the hydrodynamic and hydrobiological state of the Pärnu Bay and pointed out the main problems in relation to ecosystem services in the Pärnu Bay.

A joint discussion followed the lectures. The main topic identified How to minimize the negative effects of extreme climatic events on the people and infrastructure in the coastal zone of Pärnu City and its neighboring areas? The extreme events that may occur are extensive floods, erosion of beaches and sea ice attacks. Unfortunately, it is impossible to avoid the listed extreme events. Moreover, the city is located on varved clays, which do not support the infiltration of water. Heavy buildings have compressed the varved clays causing subsidence of land, the tectonic land uplift in Pärnu is almost missing and, therefore, the city is highly vulnerable to sea-level rise.

The representatives of the city and county governments reminded of the action plans that were taken after the catastrophic floods in 1967 and 2005 in Pärnu. After the „storm of the century” in 1967, in Soviet time conditions a huge project was performed with the aim of protecting the city by building a dam. The dam was designed to protect the low-lying areas of the city on the left bank of River Pärnu. The project was not implemented. Calculations of the costs were made in Soviet roubles of that time. The project itself with the whole documentation is archived today. A suggestion was made to revise the project and make cost/benefit analysis in euros according to the current situation. The idea was to estimate how much it would cost and how much would be saved if such dam was built.

The scientists expressed an idea to direct the water of storm surges to low-lying wetlands behind dune ridges on the coast of the Pärnu Bay with the aim of reducing water-level rise in the bay. One possibility would be to inundate Audru polder, which is not used in agricultural purposes today. There are also peatlands behind the ridges south of Pärnu, which could also be flooded in case of extreme westerly storms. Dissipation of high water would be one of the most reasonable ways to save Pärnu from critical water-level rise. At the same time, the former polder is currently a wetland, which is included in the list of Natura2000 sites as a valuable breeding ground for waterfowl. This is a potential source of conflict between different groups of interest. Implementation of the idea of storm surge water dispel needs: 1) agreement with nature protection authorities; 2) precise calculation of the relationships between the dimensions of the areas of water dispel and the rate of water-level reduction in the bay. Both activities were recommended to be carried out as soon as possible.

The participants of the seminar helped to compile a list of sectors and stakeholder groups who might be interested in being involved in future discussions and developing the BaltCoast project in Pärnu case study area.