Ein Bach runs through Antweiler. It is a few centimeters deep, maybe half a meter wide. In some maps he is called Hühnerbach, in others Huhnenbach. Experts speak of a third-order flow – actually unimportant. Two years ago, the level of the small stream rose to an estimated one and a half meters due to heavy rain, which is hardly conceivable today.
A torrent of water arose, carrying large quantities of wood with it. Like other tributaries, all of this found its way into the Ahr and thus into the Ahr Valley. Not only was the high water rising there, the wood was backing up in front of the bridges – in many places, what increased the force of the flood immensely: blockages. A technical term that politicians and citizens in the Ahr Valley use today as a matter of course to describe one of the reasons for the extent of the catastrophe. 136 people died in the night from July 14th to 15th, 2021 in the Ahr Valley, the worst disaster in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD) is now standing in front of the Huhnenbach and looking at oak trunks that were buried in the ground a few days ago. “A great, natural solution,” praises Dreyer. It is particularly nice that the wood comes from a nearby forest. In the future, the trunks should function like a rake during high water and stop the flotsam at this point; The rubbish can be removed with large machines from two access roads.
District Administrator: We are still in an exceptional situation
It is one of the many flood protection projects that have been launched in the Ahr valley. The mayor of Antweiler explains that he has long campaigned for the construction and maintenance of the rake to be financed. The small municipalities usually lack the money, the state often helps out – but it takes a while until then. When he drew Dreyer’s attention to the urgency a few months ago, he made a comparison: You could close the state chancellery, but people would be standing at his place eating Sunday lunchtime and demanding that something be done.
Something has also happened in Müsch, a few kilometers away. A section of the Trierbach, another tributary of the Ahr, has been renatured: where there is space, the creek can now spread out in the event of a flood – the danger in the nearby town center should be reduced “at least a little”, the planner of the redesign promises . The previously narrow river was widened, up to 50 meters in some places. The district administration has a lot of praise for the local mayor, who was instrumental in purchasing the many plots of land that were needed for the expansion. The project is therefore stagnating on other sections of the Trierbach, where a similar approach is to be taken.
The non-party district administrator of Ahrweiler, Cornelia Weigand, somewhat dampens expectations of the project. “It doesn’t protect against a flood disaster like the one we experienced in 2021, but it does help against the kind of floods we have more often,” she says. Altogether, Weigand, weighing her words and acting calm, gives a mixed assessment of the two years that have passed since the flood.
A lot has been built up, but you are still in an exceptional situation that will last for years to come. She wants a more far-reaching interpretation of the reconstruction aid fund from pure reconstruction to the transformation of the destroyed region. Reconstruction will take many years. It is important to Weigand that the Ahr Valley is not forgotten in the meantime.
In Müsch, a resident reports and notes that the rest area on the country road where you are standing is still a problem in the event of flooding: the water can easily overflow the banks here and flow into the village via the road. The local politicians nod somewhat contritely. Discussions with the state mobility companies are still ongoing, it is said. Dreyer glances at those involved – half encouraging, half warning, she says, as so often on this day: “You have to take that seriously. Let’s take it with us again.” She speaks for politics, for the authorities. The reconstruction is primarily a matter for the municipalities – the localities, associated municipalities and the district.