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Nagasaki Gov. Genjiro Kaneko has agreed to allow the floodgates on Isahaya Bay in Kyushu to be opened for a survey to see how a controversial land reclamation project is affecting the local ecosystem.

Kaneko gave the nod for the project during an eleventh-hour meeting with Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tsutomu Takebe at the ministry in Tokyo on Monday night.

The prefecture had been the last major opponent to the gates’ opening, which is expected to last for two months. The farm ministry has said that for the probe to conclude before the rise in water levels with the onset of the rainy season in mid-June, the gates had to be opened by the middle of this month.

The survey has become necessary as local fishermen claim that the closing off of the bay is the main reason behind the poor harvests of nori seaweed.

During the meeting, Kaneko relented on condition that the farm ministry complete the reclamation by the end of March 2007 and ensure that the survey does not cause anxiety or damage to local residents.

“As a prefecture dependent on fisheries, we need to make a final decision (on the issue) when we think of resurrecting the Ariake Sea,” Kaneko told reporters after the meeting, adding that confirmation that the project would be completed in fiscal 2006 was a major point for Nagasaki.

In addition to Kaneko, Saga Gov. Isamu Imoto and officials from Fukuoka and Kumamoto prefectures were also present during the crucial meeting.

With the understanding of the prefecture now in hand, the farm ministry will open the floodgates for several days to reduce the water levels of the ponds just inside the dike.

During this time, sandbags will be placed around the gates that drain water from the reclaimed land further beyond so that seawater will not enter.

Earlier in the day, Kaneko received a mandate on the issue from leaders of the municipalities that would be affected by the gates’ opening, as well as from the Nagasaki Prefectural Assembly.

He told a news conference held in Isahaya before leaving for Tokyo, “While I do not know what direction the negotiations will take, if the atmosphere comes to (settling the matter on the spot), that is probably what will happen.”

According to Isahaya Mayor Kunio Yoshitsugu, Kaneko explained that the situation was very tense, and that he may have to make a decision on the gates during the meeting with the farm minister.

“There is a desire (among local municipalities) to put an end to the deadlock on the issue, and since the governor will be making the final decision after considering what has gone on during this process, I will accept (his choice),” Yoshitsugu said.

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