Austria's largest renaturation project completed
After three years under construction, Austria’s biggest land restoration project on a flowing body of water was completed. Under the title “EU-LIFE+ Traisen”, VERBUND worked with partners to transform the previously straightened area at the mouth of the Traisen into a diverse riparian landscape over a distance of 9.4 kilometres.
Following a three-year construction phase, Austria's largest renaturation project on a watercourse was officially completed today. Under the title "EU LIFE+ Traisen", and with support from the European Union, the Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Resources, the Lower Austrian Fisheries Association and the via donau, VERBUND transformed the estuary area of the Traisen, which had been straightened when the Altenwörth power plant was constructed in the middle of the 1970s, into a diverse floodplain landscape extending over a distance of 9.4 kilometres.
The overall objective of the project is the ecological improvement of the wetland area and the estuary section of the Traisen within the Natura 2000 area "Tullnerfelder Danube Wetlands". The straightened river course was transformed into an exactly planned and diverse floodplain landscape with meanders, bank structures and pools.
"VERBUND does not merely care about maintaining and strengthening clean domestic hydropower electricity generation. When we implement the ecological measures established by the European Water Framework Directive, we and our partners and the scientific community develop sustainable improvements for the environment and local residents that go beyond what is required by law. In this context we have an investment package totalling € 280 million to process by 2025, and up until now projects with investment costs of approx. € 150 million have been carried out in Austria and Bavaria. And despite difficult economic parameters, we are sticking to our word about the still pending ecological projects, naturally continuing to speak up for sound judgment in the implementation," explains board director Günther Rabensteiner, VERBUND AG.
Michael Amerer, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH, is particularly proud of the ecological successes: "Once again we are demonstrating that we not only understand CO2-free electricity generation, but also sustainable care of the environment. In the closest cooperation with our internal and external experts, this truly unique project for the next generations was a success. We express our thanks to our partners, who made the project possible in the first place with their financial contribution, and the local residents for their patience during the often intense construction activity. Of course, we will continue to maintain dialogue with the communities even after the conclusion of the project."
LIFE+ Traisen is setting new ecological records. "Over an area of 150 hectares, a regionally typical new biosphere was created that will provide an expanded habitat for a multitude of domestic animal species. In order to do this, 800,000 m3 of clay and sand and 1.9 million m3 of gravel were relocated within the floodplain area to create standing water bodies and shallow water areas. The varying water topography created here, with its diverse structures in the transition area between water and land, greatly enhances the wetlands habitat. This ecological upgrading of the Traisen benefits the Danube as well. Up to this point, 30% of our power plant facility areas have been retroactively given nature conservation area status, and the Traisen estuary near Altenwörth will surely be another milestone", as Karl Heinz Gruber, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH, emphasizes.
Stephan Pernkopf, Lower Austrian Secretary of Nature Conservation: "This project is a milestone in nature and water protection for all of Austria, and a showcase project for Europe as a whole. We are giving nature more room and freeing the river from its tight corset. Valuable animal species such as the white-tailed eagle and the Danube salmon are protected by this."
"Water is an indispensable basis for life, both for humans and for nature. We are putting the EU Water Framework Directive standards into practice and creating attractive water habitats. With the LIFE+ project, the Traisen was once again interlinked with nearby water bodies, and a diverse floodplain landscape was created. The Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Resources invested approximately three million euros in this," as Dorith Breindl, acting Section Leader in the Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Resources pointed out.
With the renaturation project on the Traisen which was opened today, not only existing biotopes, such as rare dry grassland areas, could be preserved and integrated, but the entire project area was also painstakingly and successfully purged of explosive ordnance from the 2nd World War and made accessible to the public. Thanks to the well-coordinated construction work, the project was completed in just three years.
With about 15 million euros, VERBUND bore the largest share of the renaturation costs, which totalled approx. 30 million euros. The EU supported 18 % of the project costs, largely through funding from the LIFE+ Nature and Biodiversity Fund. The remaining costs were covered by the project partners and sponsors, such as the Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Resources; the Lower Austrian Federal Water Engineering Association; the viadonau; the Lower Austrian Fisheries Association; and the Lower Austrian Landscape Conservation Fund.