Caussade dam: prison sentences required for representatives of the Lot-et-Garonne chamber of agriculture

Tricolor scarves and yellow caps laid siege, Thursday, October 28, to the courthouse in Agen. Around a hundred elected officials from all sides, including the mayor of Agen, Jean Dionis du Séjour, and about a thousand activists from the rural coordination agricultural union, came in large numbers on the occasion of the appeal judgment of the president of the Lot-et-Garonne chamber of agriculture, Serge Bousquet-Cassagne, and his vice-president , Patrick Franken. They had been sentenced at first instance in July 2020, in the case of the illegal dam known as Caussade, to nine months in prison, as well as a 7,000 euros fine each. Very rare sentences in an environmental case and for agricultural officials.

At the end of a long hearing of six hours, the Advocate General of the Court of Appeal of Agen requested the same penalties, before the case was put under advisement on December 17. Neither of the two accused wished to make a comment but for Pascal Béteille, president of the Rural Coordination 47, “Our mobilization is a success, the construction of the lake a victory, what we want is the release”.

Long battle

Throughout the afternoon, the judges tried, by questioning the defendants at length, to unroll the thread of this project which dates back to the 1980s. It really took shape in 2015, when a union of irrigating farmers submits an application for a work permit to erect a dam in the Tolzac valley, in the town of Pinel-Hauterive. Following a positive public inquiry, the prefecture of the department published on June 29, 2018 an authorization order. But, at the beginning of October 2018, a letter signed by the ministers of agriculture, Stéphane Travert, and of ecological transition, François de Rugy, informs the prefect that the project is not compatible with the master plan for development and water management and the European Water Framework Directive.

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On October 15, the prefecture therefore withdraws its authorization. It is the start of a long battle at the administrative tribunal. “We are at six convictions and this is what brought these officials who consider themselves above the law in criminal justice”, hammered Alice Terrasse, the lawyer of France nature environnement (FNE) and of Sepanso, a federation of environmental associations, which formed civil parties. Because despite these convictions, in December 2018, work began, fully funded by the chamber of agriculture for an amount of 1.2 million euros. A dike 300 meters long and 12 meters high now crosses the valley where the small Tolzac stream winds and retains the artificial lake of 920,000 m2 which now irrigates around twenty farms where corn, prunes, onions, beets and even hazelnuts are grown.

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Caussade dam: prison sentences required for representatives of the Lot-et-Garonne chamber of agriculture