Mont-Saint-Michel targets ecotourism

Plans to refocus on Mont-Saint Michel’s maritime aspect are being implemented today, with new emphasis placed upon the area’s architectural heritage and natural environment. Increased biodiversity, a focus on high-quality tourism and sustainable economic development are the priorities of this enormous project.

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Mont-Saint-Michel Mont-Saint-Michel

Every year, the rocky islet of Mont-Saint-Michel welcomes 2.5 million visitors from all over the world. In the middle of the 19th century the bay began to silt up, due to short-sighted planning (involving causeways and polderisation). A major project to restore its maritime aspect began in 2000. It had been carefully planned, taking into account all the environmental and economic issues relating to the area. The second phase of the project, from 2007 to 2013, was undertaken with support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

New upstream dam

The first phase of the project (2000-2006) focused on the building of a dam on the river Couesnon, to sweep away the sediment from the Mont, deepen the seabed and lower the level of the shingle beaches. The second phase (2007-2013) involved hydraulic works upstream of the dam, (the construction of river embankments and a 770 000 m3 basin) in the bay area itself, and in the access area to the Mont.

A new entrance to the abbey

In addition to the hydraulic works undertaken upstream, further major work has been done in the bay and at the foot of the Mont. The causeway and the car park located at the foot of the abbey have been removed. Access is now via a new bridge on the seaward side, along with a 756 metre long pedestrian footbridge. The bridge will be used exclusively for shuttle buses and horse-drawn carriages. It is built on an embankment approximately 140 metres from the Mont, supported by 134 slender metal pillars. The top part will flood during high tides. This bridge will put an end to the pollution caused by traffic and parking of vehicles at the foot of the Mont.

Optimistic signs

Scientific monitoring of this project has revealed very positive environmental results:

  • increase in maritime areas and reduction of the salt marshes around the Mont.
  • overall drop in CO2 emissions (evaluated at 1 217 tons per year) and other pollutants from vehicles.
  • collection of 100% of water runoff via a sanitation network since the opening of the new car park.

A hydro-sedimentary monitoring committee of international experts regularly monitors the marine ecosystem (fauna, water quality etc.); one of the project’s objectives is to restore biodiversity and the original habitat of plant and fish species.

On an economic level, the reuse of the extracted sediment (the ‘Tangue’) should give the area a boost. It is also expected that the project will lead to the creation of 93 jobs during its developmental phase and 65 during its operational phase.

Total investment and EU contribution

Total investment in the project ‘Continuation of the major project to restore the maritime nature of Mont-Saint Michel’ is EUR 210 600 000. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is contributing EUR 10 031 150, under the ‘Lower Normandy’ Operational Programme, for the 2007-2013 programming period, under the priority ‘boosting the appeal of the region with a view to sustainable development’.

Draft date

24/09/2014