• Kyodo

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The government on Wednesday opened the gates on a dike in Isahaya Bay as part of a two-month probe into the cause of the area’s poor seaweed harvests.

It is the first time seawater has been allowed into the freshwater reservoir since the gates were closed April 14, 1997.

Under the plan by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, the gates will be opened for an hour once or twice a day over a period of three to four weeks. The ministry will later drain the reservoir and allow freshwater to fill it again.

The study, to be completed around mid-June, will examine changes in the tides and in water quality.

Those in the seaweed business in Fukuoka, Saga and Kumamoto prefectures demanded the study after a disastrous 2001 harvest.

After prolonged negotiations, the Nagasaki Prefectural Government agreed earlier this month to let the national government open the gates.

In Tokyo, farm minister Tsutomu Takebe said the opening “marked a new step forward to the promotion of the Isahaya area.”

The study is being conducted on condition that the government’s land reclamation project in Isahaya Bay be completed by the end of fiscal 2006.

Isahaya Bay is part of the Ariake Sea, a nearly landlocked body of water encircled by four prefectures.

Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Saga and Fukuoka prefectures in Kyushu.

The reclamation project covers farmland and the large freshwater reservoir within that was created by the erection of the 7,050-meter-long dike. Its gates, which locals have dubbed the “guillotine,” were closed in 1997.

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