The extension of Port-la-Nouvelle, pharaonic and contested construction site

By Martine Valo

Posted today at 3:00 p.m., updated at 3:56 p.m.

Sitting on the quay, the fishermen, stoic, incubate their lines with their eyes. The noise and the incessant comings and goings of ships participating in the construction of three kilometers of new jetties do not seem to bother them. “It’s like being on the Seine”, one jokes. “Noise attracts fish”, claims another. A hundred meters further, a backhoe loader activates from a floating platform. Like an animal with a long neck, its articulated arm dives regularly into the water and out of it huge rocks between its jaws.

Mathieu, 39, one of the nine independent fishermen in Port-la-Nouvelle, says he is worried and stressed by the closure of the current entrance to the port and the length of the new road he will have to take to get out to sea . In Port-la-Nouvelle (Aude), July 9, 2021.

The construction site of Port-la-Nouvelle (Aude), a small popular and atypical seaside resort of 5,700 inhabitants and an industrial port of medium importance on a French scale, promises to be pharaonic. Near the new road that runs alongside the St. Lucia Nature Reserve rises a hill of huge concrete blocks, tetrapods waiting to be submerged. Millions of tons of materials are needed to build the future port: its two endless dikes, its reinforced quays, its new storage platforms, etc.

The surface area of ​​the facilities adjacent to the port must quadruple. The depth of the pools must double and go from 8.60 meters to 16 meters in water height. They will thus be able to accommodate ships twice the size – 145 meters long today to 225 meters tomorrow – capable of carrying up to 80,000 tonnes of goods. About ten million cubic meters of sand and silt will be extracted.

“Jobs and happiness”

The port, which handles two million tonnes of traffic per year, hopes to double it thanks to the expansion. During the public inquiry carried out in 2018, the Occitanie region, owner of the port, highlighted the maintenance or creation of 1,700 to 1,800 jobs during the construction period and around 800 thanks to the future increase in port activities. According to her, 22% of the inhabitants live here below the poverty line, the unemployment rate is 29%.

Romain and Viny, 18 and 19, stay in their town of Port-la-Nouvelle (Aude) every summer for seasonal jobs.  Young people welcome the expansion of the commercial port, hoping for a potential increase in economic activity.  Here, July 9, 2021.

Henri Martin (DVD), the mayor of the city, believes in the project. “It’s a bet based on an optimistic vision of the future, it will create jobs and happiness, he promises. Are we going to make money? I do not know. But when there is a pond, there can come frogs … Anyway, the harbor, or we make it evolve, or it is ruined, and we are dead. “ Its constituents approved the project at 85% in 2014. He is in his fifth term. hasn’t surveyed them since. In return for compensation, the fishermen find nothing to say out loud at the worksite.

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