The failure of the largest project to dismantle hydroelectric dams in europe? (Sélune River, France, 2009-2017)

Marie-Anne Germaine
Paris Nanterre University, Laboratoire LAVUE UMR 7218 CNRS, Nanterre, France; marie-anne.germaine@parisnanterre.fr

Laurent Lespez
Paris Est Créteil University, LGP UMR 8591 CNRS, Créteil, France; laurent.lespez@u-pec.fr

ABSTRACT: The removal of two hydropower dams announced by the French government in November 2009 would have been an unprecedented operation at European scale due to their dimensions (36 and 16 m high). But this project has been strongly criticized at local level by elected officials and users. The Actor Network Theory is used to reconstitute the successive stages of the consultation process, from the first discussions about the future of the dams (2005) to the downgrading of the project (2016), finally leading to a simple draining of the lake and inspection of the dam. The ANT approach and the methodology based on stakeholder interviews and participant observation are fruitful to identify the actors – humans and non-humans like salmon or lakes – and to analyse their position in sociotechnical networks pro or against dam removal. This method aims to reconstruct the whole process of setting up the campaign groups and their trajectory and to understand the shaping of representations and values. It shows the opposite visions developed by the opponents and defenders of the dam concerning salmon and running/standing water. The way the dialogue process was conducted also plays a crucial role. Interrupted and characterized by many uncertainties, it failed in allowing a translation between expertise and local knowledge.

KEYWORDS: Dam removal, Actor Network Theory (ANT), micro-politics, governance, France