Norway blows up hydro dam to restore river health and fish stocks
The dam which is was responsible for blocking the free flow of the Tramosa river in Norway for more than 100 years destroyed this week. Now, the water from the Tramosa river can flow freely and this great work created migratory routes for fish. The dam has remained useless for more than 50 years. Several activists said that removing the dam will help aquatic life in the Tramosa river to thrive again.
“It’s a big step,” said Tore Solbakken, a person who has campaigned for five years for the old hydroelectric plant dam to be removed. “I’m very happy. It’s about restoring healthy rivers and fish stocks.”
The seven-meter-high dam was built in 1916 in the small town of Fåvang, in Innlandet, Eastern Norway. According to some activists, destroying the dam will allow aquatic beings like grayling, burbot, alpine bull, and common minnows to grow again.
“A few years ago, I saw the Condemnation documentary and that inspired me to try to remove the dams that are no longer in use. Fish barriers, hydroelectric dams, road construction, and the way we protect rivers from flooding are big problems for large brown trout and other fish. It is important to take care of all the small rivers. If we do that, we can have a positive future for our area,” said Solbakken.
By removing the dam, activists say the area’s fish will be able to thrive again, including graylings, burbots, alpine bulls, and common minnows. Lake trout, which can weigh more than 10 kg, will mainly benefit, as they feed both in downstream lakes and in Lake Lagen. So far, the fish have only been able to live and spawn in the lower 950 meters before the dam, but they will soon be able to swim upstream a distance of 10 kilometers.
The destruction of the hydro dam was part of the Open Rivers Program, a mission to eliminate outdated barriers which are responsible for the contamination of Europe’s waterways.
The Open Rivers Programme provides grants to support the missions or projects which have the intention to remove small dams which are useless and to restore the river flow and biodiversity.
In December 2021, the European Commission published a guide for the member states to spot the barriers which can be removed to help achieve the goal to restore 25,000 km of rivers to free flow by 2030.
On Wednesday, the small team of workers put 20kg of dynamite into the five deep holes which are drilled by them in the dam. Dam blasting is not common in Europe, but it is the safest method in this situation. “As planned, the dam cracked in the middle and above,” Solbakken said. “The next step is to use the excavator. It is a huge dam and it will take days to remove it completely. There is still a lot of work to do.” The team is now ready to restore the river flow directly in front of the dam site.
“Dams on rivers block migration routes, swimming routes, fish. Some species of fish, such as Atlantic salmon, eel, and sturgeon, travel thousands of kilometers to complete their life cycle. Dams also impede the important transport of sediments and nutrients, and dramatically change the natural flow of rivers. The hatcheries are lost,” said Herman Wanningen, founder of the World Fish Migration Foundation and Dam removal Europe.
The estimates show that there are at least 1.2 million instream barriers in Europe which are responsible for the massive drop in the number of migratory freshwater fish across the continent. The numbers of migratory freshwater fish were decreased by 90% between 1970 and 2016.
“Free-flowing rivers support a great deal of biodiversity. They also provide food for hundreds of millions of people, as these rivers are teeming with life and fish. Free-flowing rivers deliver rich sediments, which are crucial for agriculture and also mitigate the impact of floods and droughts. There is a lot of potential for free-flowing rivers in Europe,” said Wanningen.
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