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Valserhône (Municipality, Ain, France)

Last modified: 2019-01-06 by ivan sache
Keywords: valserhône | bellegarde-sur-valserine |
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Presentation of Valserhône

The new municipality of Valserhône (16,303 inhabitants in 2015; 6,254 ha) was established on 1 January 2019 as the merger of the former municipalities of Bellegarde-sur-Valserine (11,666 inh.; 1,525 ha), Châtillon-en-Michaille (3,586 inh.; 3,762 ha) and Lancrans (1,050 inh.; 966 ha). The municipality is named for rivers Valserine and Rhône.

Ivan Sache, 6 January 2019

Former municipality of Bellegarde-sur-Valserine


Flag of Bellegarde-sur-Valserine - Image by Ivan Sache, 31 August 2003

The municipality of Bellegarde, located on the confluence of rivers Valserine and Rhône, 40 km south-west of Geneva, was created by an Imperial Decree signed by Napoléon III on 6 December 1858, separating from the municipality of Musinens. The incorporation of Savoy to France in 1860, fostered the development of the town, which was located on the border with the Greater Free Zone. So did the industrial revolution and the building of the railway station. Factories powered by hydraulic energy were established on the banks of rivers Valserine and Rhône. Driving force was transfered from natural waterfalls to the factories through a system of cables driven by huge pulleys, called télémécanique. In 1883, the Swiss engineer Louis Dumont built a dam on the Valserine to produce electricity; accordingly, Bellegarde was one of the first French towns equipped with electric street lighting.
Bellegarde increased in size and economical importance until the end of the Second World War. North of the town, the Rhône used to disappear completely during the dry season in a 60-m deep fault called perte du Rhône (Rhône loss). The Génissiat dam, built south of Bellegarde, was inaugurated in 1948; the perte du Rhône was transformed in a 23-km long reservoir spreading from Génissiat to the Swiss border. As a consequence, most power plants and factories originally built along the Rhône were submerged and Bellegarde lost its most striking natural site, the perte du Rhône, keeping only the perte de la Valserine, of similar geologic origin.
In the 1960s, Bellegarde resumed its development and absorbed the neighboring municipalities of Coupy (1966) and Arlod (1970).The TGV high-speed train reached Bellegarde, already an important station on the Paris-Geneva line, in 1981.

A vertical, forked, vertically divided yellow-green flag was once flown near the railway station. These colors are, undoubtedly, the municipal colors, shown on the municipal coat of arms, "Argent a pile couped in chief vert overall a gateway argent masoned sable a dexter canton argent a cross couped gules in the sinister canton three lightning bolts issuant from sinister chief in base a cogwheel or".
These arms, adopted in 1946, attempted to incorporate the most characteristic features of the town, that is, the links with Geneva, and, especially, the help offerred during the Second World War, therefore the Red Cross; the border location, as expressed by the gate; the hydraulic energy, as expressed by the wind-mill; and the early electrification of the town, as expressed by the bolts.

Ivan Sache, 31 August 2003