Dam Removal Europe webinar

Today I tuned into a dam removal webinar hosted by Bart Geenen. More than 400 people worldwide joined river scientists and interested people on this webinar all about the impacts of dams and benefits of removal on fish migration.

Pao Fernández Garrido from the World Fish Migration Foundation gave a summary of how dam removal has progressed so far, demonstrating Dam Removal Europe (DRE), a partnership between 7 organisations including WWF, World Fish Migration Foundation, the Rivers Trust and Rewilding Europe.

Bob Irvin from American Rivers was also on the call, and mentioned he was pleased to be part of this, and celebrate today’s dam removal, as well as the growing dam removal across Europe. He mentioned how with every dam removed a river is restored for the fish, people and generations to come.

We then had a presentation from the UK, as Jack Spees, Chief Executive of the Ribble Rivers Trust talked about the importance of getting local people involved in restoration works, for example volunteers to tackle non-native species.

We then moved to France were Stéphane Jourdan gave his presentation on feedback from dam removal in the field.

Following some questions we went live to Sweden, were Esa Fahlén and his team were answering questions bankside, on a dam removal site! Esa interviewed Ula, a university researcher and biologist working on fish migration and solutions from fish passage. He mentioned how projects usually focus on providing upstream passage for large salmonid fish and trout, but this has progressed to more technical fish. There has been a shift of target species from salmonids to all naturally occurring fish species, and dam removal will be hugely beneficial. Ula’s task is to evaluate the effects of removal, focusing on fish passage before and after removal. The main species will probably be salmon in combination with eels, however dam removal can have beneficial impacts on lots of different species.

Dam removal in Sweden as a restoration tool is quite new and not very common. Most work has been looking at downstream and upstream passage and habitat restoration. They mentioned that they never thought this kind of technique would happen in Sweden, as they rely heavily on hydropower for electricity.Sweden have removed a lot of small barriers and structures, but not so many dams.

Dam removal in Sweden has always included voluntary engagement of landowners, and co funded by the owner as well as national funding. Whether or not dam removals in the country will increase is the million-dollar question! Legislation has recently been formally approved so that all hydropower plants in Sweden have to be relicensed. Older permits were under the old water law, so needed to be updated. With increasing restorative works in the country’s regulated rivers, it is likely more removals are to come.

All the contractors and researchers on site are happy to see this work being carried out today. It had been planned for several years, and the removal is good news for the fish! This project helps improve knowledge. When you know how devastating a dam can be, it is important to see the change and beneficial impacts of removal.

Following this interview on site, Andrea Lundblad presented on her work to remove barriers. She owns a small company aiming to make the world better for aquatic fauna (Naturentreprenad Syd AB). Andrea stressed her key values, including that as much funding as possible should be invested into the actual removal/enhancement works; landowners should be involved as much as possible; and we need to act now.

One of Andrea’s examples was a 1m high overflow weir with a salmon fish ladder installed. The barrier needs to be amended to make it passable to all species, however there are heritage issues. The surrounding wall has cultural values and needs to be preserved, but the river is eroding and the wall is going to fall into the creek. The solution was to open part of the dam and build up the creek bed with gravel and blocks to support the wall and slow erosion.