The Court of Auditors criticizes the strategy of the Hérault department on its coastal management

The Court of Auditors criticizes the strategy of the Hérault department on its coastal management
The Court of Auditors criticizes the strategy of the Hérault department on its coastal management

In a report published on May 2, the regional chamber of accounts mentions “numerous shortcomings” in the strategy of the Department of Hérault with regard to coastal development in the face of environmental challenges. She emphasizes “the absence of definition of results indicators for all of its plans”and the absence of “systematic assessment of the actions carried out, which does not make it possible to evaluate their effectiveness”

Clearly, the regional chamber of accounts is increasing alerts on the management of environmental risks in Hérault. At the end of March, it warned of the risks of submersion by the waters of the seafront south of Montpellier by 2050. On April 24, it was the strategy of the Montpellier Metropolis against climate change which was severely criticized by the administrative and financial policeman. And this May 2, the institution did it again with a 53-page report on the management of the Hérault coastline.

The dangers of urbanization

Firstly, the report provides a portrait of the development of the Hérault coastline, with the risks associated with urbanization and the artificialization of land linked in particular to the tourism economy. “The creation of an urban framework around a dense network of towns all along the Hérault coastline is a Source of several negative effects. The artificialization of soils constitutes the first of these. Although the phenomenon has slowed down compared to the period 2000-2006, artificialized soils represented 10.4% of the Hérault territory in 2018, i.e. above the average of 9% recorded in mainland France.writes the regional chamber of accounts.

The Department of Hérault, according to the report, is particularly subject to risks of flooding and marine submersion. “Due to its coastal façade, the department of Hérault is particularly exposed to the risk of flooding, also present in the ponds and rivers that it shelters. Thus, nearly 129,000 people live in flood zones, or nearly 10% of the department’s population. The commune of Frontignan was the subject of 14 natural disaster declarations over the period from 1999 to 2019 due to flooding and mudslides. The municipalities of Mèze and Sète were for their part ten times over this same period.”

The other risks mentioned by the regional chamber of accounts are the erosion of the coastline on the coast and the salinization of groundwater.

“Deficiencies in operational management”

If, according to the regional chamber of accounts, the Department has historically put in place measures to protect its coastline (installation of protective infrastructure, setback of roads to protect the lido, etc.), the report notes that the management of recent plans to Community action is imperfect. Note that the skills of the Department have been limited for the benefit of intercommunalities and the Region by the NOTRe and NAPTAM laws, which redefine the fields of intervention of the different communities, in particular on the management of natural environments and sensitive natural spaces, this which makes the management of these actions more complex.

In 2019, the Department adopted a plan, the Hérault Littoral strategy, which aims to “reconcile and align all departmental policies to enable adaptation of the Hérault coastline to climate change and coastal risks”with 36 actions planned for the 2019-2030 time frame.

But for the regional chamber of accounts, the Department lacks studies or audits to measure its action on its capacity to reconcile the attractiveness of the coastline and the preservation of environmental issues, and certain details of this strategy remain unclear: “The budgetary forecast presented in the Hérault littoral strategy suffers from inaccuracies. If the total amount of actions planned for the six commitments could be estimated at €85.05 million, the department of Hérault is not able to explain the nature of the remaining €15 million out of the €100 million. euros planned for the 2019-2021 period. No precise and detailed information on the execution of the corresponding expenditure has been produced.”

The financial and administrative institution nevertheless notes a positive point: the Department’s tax resources increased in 2021, and its debt management appears to be “secure and controlled” in the eyes of the regional audit chamber. However, the report notes that the community struggles to precisely evaluate the money injected each year into coastal development: “The department of Hérault does not have a specific budget bringing together all the operating and investment expenses incurred each year in terms of coastal development. […] Due to the lack of sufficiently efficient analytical accounting, the department is not able to accurately determine the expenses specifically incurred for coastal development. If the deployment of such analytical accounting raises technical difficulties, the department must equip itself with tools to better evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the policies implemented for the coast.”

And if the Department has adopted awareness-raising actions on the themes of coastline erosion and coastal vulnerability to natural risks, the report notes that “after specifying that these actions, carried out by elected officials and agents of the Department, essentially relate to operating expenses (salaries), the department admitted that no precise assessment of their effects had been carried out at the moment. ”

Changes “to continue”

The regional audit chamber also emphasizes that the community is making efforts to reconcile the attractiveness of the territory and the protection of the coastline: assessment of the sustainability of tourist accommodation, development of soft mobility, particularly cycling, public awareness actions, etc. However, some of these actions have had a mixed record for the House. This is for example the case of the “glutton fish” operation (large fish-shaped trash cans placed on the beaches to collect plastic bottles), initiated during the summer of 2020: “If the Hérault department has recorded several expressions of interest in the system, it also suffers from an absence of indicators making it possible to precisely evaluate its effects, particularly in terms of public awareness. On the other hand, this experience demonstrates the persistence of individual behaviors of beach users contrary to the environmental purpose of the operation. Indeed, feedback from participating municipalities has reported frequent non-compliance with the rules for the exclusive collection of plastic waste, leading to collection difficulties and even an accumulation of various waste around the collecting fish.we can read in the report.

In his response addressed to the Chamber, Kleber Mesquida, president of the Department of Hérault, specified that “the Chamber did not define in the preamble of its investigation what it considered to be coastal development. The Department, for its part, keeps detailed accounts of expenditure relating to the coastline. The connection of this or that expense can be easily achieved once we define what we call coastal development.”

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