New dam removal projects in Sweden: anglers in action for free-flowing rivers

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03 Aug

As daily witnesses of the environment, anglers know how much they rely on protected biodiversity and free-flowing rivers. In Sweden, EAA member Sportfiskarna, is every year fully involved in several dam demolition projects which aims to restore river ecosystems.

Dams change water quality and temperature as well as the oxygen levels and how the river flows. They also affect fish migration for which dams represent a barrier both downstream and upstream. Generally considered as a ‘green’ and ‘clean’ energy, hydropower also has very negative consequences for rivers’ ecosystem. 
In Lilla Röd, Sweden, Sportfiskarna have had a dialogue with a landowner and the County Administrative Board of Västra Götaland to remove a dam on the Örekilsälven river. This salmon river has been negatively affected for many decades by this dam which blocks fish migration at low flows. Supported by a grant from the county authority and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation’s fund Bra Miljöval, Sportfiskarna aims to finalise the consultation and impact assessment during 2021, to start the physical dam removal in 2022. 

Such a removal will bring many benefits as past experiences of river restoration have shown. On the Örekilsälven river, this project will make it possible to restore spawning and rearing areas of 17,000 square meters. It will allow constant fish migration and will bring the river to its natural seasonal flow variation. The Lilla Röd project will also benefit to local culture as Sportfiskarna is working with experts on cultural environment, to preserve the remaining of an old stone bridge just downstream the dam. It is always important to remember that it is neither the water surface, nor the actual dam construction that is of cultural importance, but the buildings and foundations around it. Thanks to the good cooperation with landowners and experts on cultural environment, it is therefore almost always possible to restore and open the waterways for fish and other fauna, without damaging the cultural values around it. 
The journey to bring rivers to their free-flowing state is still very long as there are approximately 1 million dams in Europe alone. Nevertheless, across Europe and beyond, anglers in partnership with many other environment lovers take actions to restore rivers’ ecosystem and revive fish migration. 
These “dam busters” will be at a centre of an eponymous documentary produced by Dam Removal Europe, to be released in 2021. After Love Flows which brought to lights events organised as part of the 2018 World Fish Migration, this new documentary will be another tool to raise awareness of the benefits of of free-flowing river.
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