Launch of the “LIFE Blue Belt Danube Inn” project

2/18/2022Vienna, Simbach

VERBUND, the leading generator of hydropower in Central Europe, has launched a powerful programme called “LIFE Blue Belt Danube Inn” to connect the last remaining interrupted habitats along the Danube and the border section of the Inn. Following on from previous projects, the power plants at Schärding-Neuhaus, Passau-Ingling, Jochenstein, Aschach and Ybbs-Persenbeug will be equipped with fish passes and the banks extensively restored. With the investment of 60 million euros, this will make the Danube and Inn passable to fish all the way from Romania to Rosenheim by 2027.

“Thanks to decades of experience, we are able to close the challenging gaps in our power plant chain and reconnect the habitats. Once again, we have launched a project on a European scale, with which hydropower will become even more sustainable. It makes it possible to retract developments of the centuries-old history of human interventions in river courses and recreate lost habitats. In this way, hydropower is becoming part of the solution for ecology and the environment. Our thanks go to the project partners, above all the EU, which is enabling the project with means from the LIFE+ fund,” says Michael Strugl, CEO of VERBUND, emphasising the international importance of the project.

Achim Kaspar, who is responsible for generation on the Executive Board of VERBUND AG, says about the importance of the measures: “Of the already planned investments in land restoration and fish passes of 280 million euros by 2027, we have already spent 150 million euros on the future of hydropower. This is eco-friendly if the possible measures are implemented intelligently. We take advice on this from renowned experts, and the success of projects to date shows we are on the right path. With LIFE Blue Belt Danube Inn, we are implementing another project for future generations.” 

Michael Amerer, managing director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH: “The benefit of our measures can be seen and extends over borders. In future, fish and other aquatic life will be able to migrate from the Iron Gate to Bavaria. The more interconnected a habitat, the more stable the ecosystem. In this way, we’re returning to the Danube and Inn what they’re due and combining sustainable electricity generation with sustainable species diversity.”

Karl Heinz Gruber, managing director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH, adds: “With our know-how, we are managing to achieve so much more than the statutory regulations of the EU Water Framework Directive would demand. We are thus following on from the scientifically confirmed success of our previous land restoration projects. The LIFE projects Network Danube and Network Danube Plus have already created ecological stepping stones which we are compressing and securing for the long term with Blue Belt Danube Inn.”

60 million euros for cross-border ecological measures

Österreichisch-Bayerische Kraftwerke AG and VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH are investing 60 million euros in the measures. The EU is contributing 8 million euros from means of the LIFE programme. The power plants at Jochenstein (Danube), Schärding-Neuhaus (Inn) and Passau-Ingling (Inn) are being given fish passes. The Austrian Danube power plants at Aschach and Ybbs-Persenbeug will also become barrier-free. The Danube will therefore become passable to fish by 2027. The measures are flanked by bank structures on the Danube and Inn, in order to create habitats and protected spawning grounds for the fish that live in the Danube.

The project LIFE Blue Belt Danube Inn aims at conserving and improving the endangered river fish in the Danube and Inn. The focus is on the freshwater fish that need connected habitats on the Danube and Inn as medium-distance migratory species. Examples are grayling, nase, barbel and sterlet. The absence of barriers at the power plants enables regional populations to connect with each other.

The project connects to the parallel LIFE project Riverscape Lower Inn. The coordinated procedure, also with other projects on the Danube and Inn, ensures maximum impact, which can be measured not in kilowatt hours, but exclusively in ecological improvements. Together with the previous LIFE+ projects “Network Danube” and “Network Danube Plus”, the success of the ecology improvement measures is being further upgraded through the linkage.

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