Dispute between Environment Ministry, Water Authority stalls Kishon River project

The Environment Ministry expressly blamed Water Authority Commissioner Alexander Kushnir for delaying the project.

Salt marshes at the Kishon River banks 370 (photo credit: Amit Mendelssohn)
Salt marshes at the Kishon River banks 370
(photo credit: Amit Mendelssohn)
The project to restore the Kishon River has been frozen due to the Water Authority commissioner’s refusal to accept professional committee recommendations that would allow for the discharge of purified Kishon water back to the river, the Environmental Protection Ministry said on Sunday. For its part, the Water Authority has accused the Environmental Protection Ministry of failing to fulfill all tests required by the Water Law on the purified water.
“Water from the river was purified, and therefore, the discharge would return water to the river purer and cleaner than before,” said the Environmental Protection Ministry. “Failure to grant the discharge permit by the authority is due to bureaucratic reasons only and perpetuates the river’s pollution.”
The ministry expressly blamed Water Authority head Alexander Kushnir for delaying the project, despite the opinions of professional staff members.
In order to avoid continuing the project without official approvals, Environmental Protection Ministry director-general David Leffler ordered the Kishon River Drainage Authority to stop work at the site for now, the ministry said.
“It’s unfortunate to us that due to reasons not clear to us, hundreds of thousands of Haifa area residents who desperately need a metropolitan park instead of a polluted stream are being hurt,” the ministry added.
The failure to approve the project has caused undue delays in completing a national project and wasted public money, according to the ministry.
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz said he plans to continue to invest the necessary resources toward rehabilitating the once-polluted river, which last year already began to show new signs of life.
In response to the Environmental Protection Ministry’s allegations, the Water Authority stressed that while the ministry is capable of granting discharge permits on its own, as it does for factories in the region, the ministry is failing to take such responsibility in this case.
The Water Authority said that the ministry is seeking to approve a project that does not meet legal requirements and standards for water. The Water Law prohibits granting an order permitting pumping that could worsen the state of the river, and Kushnir has determined that water should only be discharged into the river if it causes no environmental damage and if there is no better alternative.
The material submitted by the Environmental Protection Ministry to the Water Authority is lacking, featuring an examination of only four out of 23 parameters, the Water Authority said, adding that the material does not contain information regarding the concentrations of heavy metals, or residues from petroleum, fertilizer or chemical industries.
In addition, the authority said that the ministry has not proved that there is no better alternative because a risk assessment for the project was not conducted.
Kushnir recently ordered an advisory committee to resume discussion on the subject, and said that a decision cannot be made until all proper examinations have taken place and all detailed information has been received.
Approving the discharge at this point could be “problematic and likely would bring about violations of the Water Law,” the Water Authority concluded.
Hearing these arguments, an Environmental Protection Ministry spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that his office has submitted data on all the required parameters.
“Every time they asked us for something we gave it. And the committee itself approved this last January,” the spokesman said. “What has changed in the last six months?” Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor refuted these claims.
“By now, what we know is that the committee sat on data that was based on four parameters only, and that’s not enough,” Schor told the Post. “The Water Authority manager said that they must sit on all 23. Once they do that we will decide.”