Construction of a bridge over some of the Mosel river valley's most-prized vineyards has resumed, despite the continued protests of local winery owners and German Riesling fans around the world. Seven months after work halted, reportedly due to problems with engineering plans, workers began placing foundations Oct. 23 in preparation for raising the first pier of the 525-foot bridge.
A long-standing project conceived by the government during the Cold War, the Hochmoselübergang, or High Mosel Crossway, was approved as an economic stimulus project during the global recession. Its four lanes are designed to aid transit from Frankfurt airport to Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. But many worry its construction will damage the world-renowned Riesling vineyards beneath the planned mile-long bridge.
Many of the Mosel region’s key winemakers, including Ernst Loosen of Bernkastel's Weingut Dr. Loosen and Manfred Prüm of Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm, oppose the bridge, fearing that unpredictable building effects could ruin the vineyards either through increased pollution, disturbing the microclimate of the vineyards and the forest above, heightened soil erosion or interfering with the watershed.
Earlier this year, building work was abandoned, reportedly interrupted due to miscalculated engineering plans. Pro-Mosel, an advocacy group that opposes the bridge, stated that, “according to workers at the site, the difficulties included faulty plans for the steel structure, inadequate spacing of the piers and a lack of necessary stabilization for construction at the landslide-prone area on the Ürzig side of the Mosel river.”
Even though construction has resumed, Pro-Mosel leader Sarah Washington maintains that the questions of stability and other construction problems are as yet unresolved. “I know the campaigners are not backing down, because everyone considers that the building process is going to throw up problems that in the end will be too costly or awkward to solve,” she said.
The regional government, which is in charge of the project, did not respond to requests for comment.