New York Riesling Diary: Day 60 – Finally, Hope for the Mosel and the End for the Mosel Bridge?

Sarah and Knut are hopeful for the first time in almost three years, and that makes me hopeful too. In fact, this is my second reason for feeling hopeful this Christmas (for the first scroll down to the previous post). Maybe it isn’t too late for the terrible monster threatening the Mosel to be stopped. Read on to find out why.

Pictured above are Sarah Washington (left) and Knut Aufermann (right), central figures in the campaign to stop the Hochmoselübergang or “Mosel Bridge”, the largest bridge under construction in Europe that is planned to span the middle section of the Mosel Valley at its widest point close to the famous wine towns of Ürzig, Erden, Zeltingen, Wehlen, Graach and Bernkastel. If ever completed the concrete white elephant would be over a mile long and 525 feet high, but would carry an absurdly small amount of traffic for the expense – planned 130 million Euros, but probably impossible to build for even triple this. More importantly, it would have an unquantifiable but seriously negative impact upon some of the most famous vineyards in the Mosel and on Planet Riesling. This photo dates from the high point of the international campaign against the Mosel Bridge in 2010 when the Green Party of the state of Rheinland Pfalz (RLP) were committed to stopping the project. Their surprising success in the state elections in the spring of 2011 made that look like a very real possibility, then when they entered the present coalition government with the socialist SDP party they immediately caved in, dropping their opposition. Not only were Sarah and Knut shocked, also Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson and untold thousands of supporters of this cause around the globe were too. I will never forget how the news reached me on New York’s Fifth Avenue just yards from where I write these lines. As I read the text message from Sarah I almost fainted, because at that point I’d already been active in the campaign for 8 years. Now, finally, after more than a decade after I joined in 2003, there finally seems to be some positive movement and that gives us hope. Here’s the news and Sarah’s comment upon it:

On December 20th 2013 Der Spiegel, Germany’s equivalent of TIME magazine reported that there are serious risks in the construction of the High Mosel Bridge. Here is a summary of the initial SPIEGEL report (translated by Sarah Washington):

According to information received by SPIEGEL, experts for the
government of Rheinland Pfalz say the building of the bridge is
significantly more risky than previously acknowledged.

According to internal documents from the Green Economy Ministry of
Eveline Lemke, the state agency for geology warns of “significant
structural and financial risks” in the creation of pillars up to 150m
high on the west side of the Mosel valley.

The experts point to geological “slip surfaces” on the slope ranging
up to 70 meters in depth, which are “not reliably explored”. The
“geological risk” is assessed as “very high”.

The 130 million euro project is currently the largest bridge
construction site in Europe. The road bridge is to better connect Hahn
Airport in the Hunsrück Eifel region.

Residents and winemakers have been protesting for years in vain,
however the Social Democratic Ministry for Internal Affairs and
Infrastructure claimed that it could “not comprehend” the criticism.
The stability of the bridge could be ensured by “engineering

For the German language article in Der Spiegel use this link:

My reaction: This confirms what we have feared all along – that
we will be left with half a bridge. There is information stretching
right back to the 1950s which suggests that the Ürzig slope may be too
problematic to build upon. As the government would not provide any
information, an independent geologist was engaged in 2011 who
confirmed the likelihood of significant problems. The campaign group
Pro-Mosel recently took the local government to court to try to find
out under the Freedom of Information Act what the problem is with the
static calculations for the bridge, which have seemingly already
caused a one-year delay. The court ruled that the government could
remain silent by invoking the protection of ‘trade secrets’ of the
building companies. It seems that protesters were right to be
suspicious of the lack of transparency, and that the government is
withholding vital public information for the sole reason that it is
embarrassingly damaging for them. Our current Ministers appear to be
content to wait this problem out in the hope that it will become
someone else’s future responsibility. It is time to stop the charade
and protect the taxpayer and the vineyards from further abuse.

A very Merry Christmas to you all. Raise a glass for the Mosel and
keep your fingers crossed.
Best wishes,

For further information on the campaign use the link or email below:

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