Saimaa Canal Commission grants a permit to Transport Infrastructure Agency for construction in the Saimaa Canal lease area
On 20 January 2022, the Saimaa Canal Commission granted a permit to the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency for construction in the Saimaa Canal lease area. The Commission, which coordinates the positions of the Finnish authorities, considers that the development projects of the Saimaa Canal meet the obligations of the Saimaa Canal lease agreement. The projects are needed to develop the Canal and organise its vessel traffic.
Under the lease agreement, Russia leases the parts of the Saimaa Canal located in its territory, together with the associated land area, to Finland. The agreement allows Finland to construct in the area it has leased. According to the Act of 2012 bringing the agreement into force, a permit is needed from the Saimaa Canal Commission to construct in the area. This is the Finnish permit process for constructing in the Saimaa Canal lease area, and the permit does not replace the permits required by Russian legislation.
The development projects that were granted a permit cover two areas: lengthening the locks in the Canal by 11.5 metres and raising the water level by ten cents. In its supplementary budget in autumn 2020, Parliament allocated EUR 5 million for raising the water level and, in the 2021 budget, granted a budget authority of EUR 90 million for lengthening the locks of the Canal.
In matters relating to the implementation of the Saimaa Canal lease agreement and the development of vessel traffic, the Saimaa Canal Commission coordinates the positions of the Finnish authorities. The Commission is chaired by Canal Delegate Minna Kivimäki, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The Commission has members from the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Border Guard, Customs, and the Transport Infrastructure Agency.
The permit will be legally valid after the appeal period of 30 days. Where possible, feedback from statements issued during the permit process on the implementation schedule of the projects must be taken into account in the implementation of the projects.
The local legislation applicable in the lease area shall be complied with in the construction.
In accordance with Russian legislation, both projects require an environmental impact assessment, an environmental permit and a building permit.
In Finland, a permit complying with the Water Act will be needed for raising the water level. The Transport Infrastructure Agency submitted the permit application to the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland on 18 March 2021.
The Agency estimated that the construction work will begin in 2023. Due to the work, traffic in the Canal will have to be interrupted. The Agency estimates that the interruption will take 15 months between January 2024 and June 2025. It will make its final decision on the time and duration of the traffic interruption after having completed the impact assessment of the matter.
Seppo Kykkänen, Head of the Saimaa Canal Delegate's Office, tel. +358 400 152 868, seppo.kykkanen(at)gov.fi