Anglers have fought for five years to free fish migratory routes as part of move across Europe to create free-flowing rivers.
Norway blows up hydro dam to for river health and fish stocks
For over a hundred years, fish had very limited access to the river Tromsa in Fåvang in the middle of Gudbrandsdalen, Norway. In 1916, both dam and pipe gate were built. The purpose was to supply power to a mill, and later electricity and light to people in Fåvang. In the 1950s, however, the plant was decommissioned, but the pipe gate and pond were left standing. Only in January 2022 was everything finally demolished, and once again the waterway is freely open for both fish and fishermen.
removing the dam will help fish in the area to thrive again
A dam that had blocked the Tromsa River in Norway for more than 100 years was blown up this week, freeing up migratory routes for fish.
“It’s a big step,” said Tore Solbakken of Norwegian fishing club Gudbrandsdal Sportsfiskeforening, which campaigned for five years to have the old dam removed from the hydroelectric power station. “I am very happy. This is about restoring the health of rivers and fish populations.”
Built in 1916, the seven-metre high dam in the small town of Fåvang in Innlandet, eastern Norway, has not been used for more than 50 years.
The Tromsa is a tributary of the Lågen River, which feeds Lake Mjøsa, Norway’s largest lake. Campaigners say removing the dam will help fish in the area to thrive again, including grayling, burbot, alpine bullhead and common minnow. It is hoped that the main beneficiary will be lake trout, which can weigh more than 10 kg and feed in the lakes downstream and the Lågen. Until now, fish could only live and spawn in the lower 950 meters before the dam, while they will soon be able to swim 10 km upstream.
around 150,000 dams and weirs in Europe that no longer have a function can be removed
The destruction of the dam is part of a trend to remove obsolete barriers that litter Europe’s waterways. In October, the Open Rivers Programme, a €42.5 million project to provide grants to support the removal of small dams and the restoration of river flows across Europe, was launched with support from the Arcadia Charitable Fund. Last month, the European Commission published a guide for member states to identify barriers that could be removed to help achieve the goal of restoring 25,000 km of rivers to free flowing by 2030.
The campaign by Solbakken and the 120 members of the fishing club led to the government agreeing to foot the 3.4 million crown (£290k/€347k/$393k) bill to remove the dam.
On Wednesday (12 January), the small team drilled five holes deep into the dam, then stuffed 20kg of dynamite into each one. Blowing up dams is unusual in Europe but has been deemed the safest method in this case. The explosives caused the dam to crack in the middle and at the top. The next step is to use earthmoving equipment to move the broken infrastructure. It’s a large dam and it is expected it will take days to remove everything.
The team will then undertake to restore the river directly upstream of the dam site.
Other dams are due to be removed across Europe in 2022, including in Spain, France and the UK. The European research project Amber showed that there are around 150,000 dams and weirs in Europe that no longer have a function and can be removed without any problem.
- The Open Rivers Programme offers grants to support projects that lead to the removal of small dams and the restoration of river flow and biodiversity. Learn more.
- DamNation documentary. Fishermen, Native Americans, farmers, Orca lovers, business owners, and conservationists – joined the Free the Snake Flotilla to call for the removal of the 4 deadbeat dams on the Lower Snake River in Southeastern Washington. Learn more.
- The Open Rivers Programme, a €42.5m project to provide grants to support the removal of small dams and the restoration of river flow across Europe, launched with the backing of the charitable fund Arcadia.
- The European Commission released a guide for member states to identify barriers that could be removed to help achieve the goal of restoring 25,000km of rivers to free-flowing by 2030.
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