Groundbreaking for the fish bypass at Abwinden-Asten


Ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony of the project partners in Abwinden-Asten: VERBUND, Austria’s leading electricity company and operator of the five Danube power plants in Upper Austria, is equipping the Abwinden-Asten power plant with a new fish bypass. Over a distance of more than 5 kilometres on the right bank of the Danube, fish and other living creatures will find a new habitat and an opportunity to pass around the power plant. A total of approximately five hectares of new rive habitat will be created. The total investment in this measure, which is part of the Danube-wide LIFE+ project “Network Danube”, is about 6.5 million euros; in addition to VERBUND, it will also receive financial support from the European Union, the Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism, the province of Upper Austria and the Upper Austrian Provincial Fisheries Association. The work is scheduled to run until early 2020.

Restoring the continuity of major rivers is one of the key objectives of the European Water Framework Directive. The near-natural stream enables the fish to easily overcome the 8 metre height difference at the Danube power plant Abwinden-Asten. This requires a 5.3 kilometre-long channel on the right side of the Danube, embedded in the ecologically valuable areas of the floodplain forest to the south of the power plant. The inlet structure is also the exit of the fish bypass and is located in the reservoir of the Abwinden-Asten power plant at current km 2,122.3, slightly upstream of the Ausee. The fish bypass exits back into the Danube 700 metres below the Abwinden-Asten power plant at current km 2,118.9. 
The Mitterwasser also benefits from the project, as measures are also being implemented in the approach to the power plant. Construction work began in January 2019 with clearing activities in the floodplain forest, and earthworks have been ongoing since mid-February. Construction will be completed in early 2020. The popular Danube-Traun Cycle Route R4 will remain open during the construction period, but will follow a diversion.

Joint groundbreaking ceremony of the project partners

In a powerfully symbolic act, the participating project partners gathered for the traditional ground-breaking ceremony within sight of the Abwinden-Asten power plant.
“We are proud of the diverse value of hydropower. Especially here on the Danube, we prove that electricity from hydropower is the most sustainable, cleanest and safest form of domestic electricity generation,” said VERBUND board member Achim Kaspar at the ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony. “But we are also pioneers in ecological measures. It is very important to us that we develop hydropower as a resource to a high standard that is as ecological as it is compatible, and to strengthen the backbone of our secure domestic supply.”
“Clean energy from hydropower often finds itself in a conflict of interest with nature conservation and water protection,” says Elmar Podgorschek, Member of the provincial parliament. “The new fish ladder at the Abwinden-Asten power plant proves that a far-reaching balance of interests can be achieved with mature technology. We are pleased that the province of Upper Austria can contribute to the implementation of this ecologically valuable fish bypass through a subsidy, which will enable us to create another piece of nature.” 
Robert Fenz, Head of Department I/3 National and International Water Management at the Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism, emphasised the good cooperation in the project planning. “Good communication between the partners is a key factor for a successful project,” said Robert Fenz.

Fresh habitat for flora and fauna

“In the spirit of the LIFE+ project “Network Danube”, the fish bypass at Abwinden-Asten is a link to making sections of the Danube accessible again for many species of fish,” notes Michael Amerer, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH. “By 2028, we will be investing a 
total of more than 280 million euros in the ecology of VERBUND hydropower. We are pleased that we have also found important financing partners for this high level of investment in the environment, above all, of course, the European Union as well as the federal government, the provinces of Upper and Lower Austria and the fishery associations of these two provinces.” 
Karl Heinz Gruber, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH: “Our goal has been in place for quite a while, namely the complete barrier-freedom of our domestic hydropower plants. To date, we have completed 53 fish bypasses throughout Austria. We always make sure that in addition to the passability of the power plants, we also create other valuable spawning and habitat areas for fish and areas of retreat for aquatic life. With intelligent landscape planning, we have made amazing improvements to the biodiversity at our power plant sites in no time at all.”

Partner in the LIFE+ project “Network Danube”

VERBUND launched the LIFE+ Projekt „Network Danube“ in 2011, which aims at networking the fish habitat in the Danube, among other things with the creation of continuity on selected stretches of the Danube, as well as the construction of special structural measures in areas at the base of dams in the form of gravel banks, islands and tributaries. 
VERBUND is significantly improving the fish fauna of four Natura 2000 areas and feeder systems with a total expenditure of around 25 million euros and 6 financing partners (European Union, Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism, the provincial governments of Upper and Lower Austria and the provincial fishing associations of Upper and Lower Austria). Also involved are the companies Energie AG, KELAG, Salzburg AG and VKW, which are entitled to draw electricity from the Abwinden-Asten power plant.


Portrait Florian Seidl Florian Seidl

Spokesperson Region East

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