Sindi Dam Removal in Estonia

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

It took 3 years but finally a 151m wide and 4.5m high dam will be removed in Estonia! This is part of a larger €15 million project that will help restore a historical salmon migration route and riverine habitat.

The Parnu River basin in Estonia covers an area 20% the size of Estonia. The river is 144 km long but together with the tributaries (270 rivers and streams) it makes up a 3300km river basin! And this river is the biggest historical salmon river in the country with a potential twice as big as the other rivers altogether to improve salmon populations. However, a big obstacle stands in the way of migrating salmon—the Sindi Dam. This 151m wide and 4,5m high dam is the first migration barrier within the river (14 km from the sea) so removing it will effectively open up the river basin! Which is just what project manager, Külli Tammur and team are in the works of doing.

The idea to remove the dam first came about because the dam blocks the historic migration routes for salmon. Moreover, the dam was also in violation of an Estonian state policy that aims to protect and conserve natural habitats. To remove the dam, however, the government had to buy the land and dam itself for 1.3 million euros! Only then could they begin plans to remove the barrier.

These plans initially started in 2015 but were off to a slow start as it was difficult to get everyone on board. The dam offered an artificial lake where local people enjoyed swimming and thus taking away their outdoor pool was a huge obstacle to overcome. However, the project team came up with multiple visions for how the community and environment could look like once the dam was gone. The final vision includes excavating the river a bit so it could be deeper and easier to swim in, creating pathways for walking along the river banks, leaving a rapid for recreational kayaking, and now it will be legal to fish there! Just collaborating with the local community and finalizing the vision took 1.5 years to complete before they could officially begin on the project.

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