Ecological upgrading of the riverscape on the Lower Inn and fish passes for Egglfing-Obernberg and Braunau-Simbach
Braunau-Simbach power plant: groundbreaking for the project "Consistency and Habitat"
The resources of the EU LIFE programme and the collaboration between partners from Bavaria and Upper Austria are making it possible to implement comprehensive measures that go far beyond the area of the power plant itself. The groundbreaking for the project "Consistency and Habitat" at the border power plant at Braunau-Simbach on the Inn is the first step in its implementation.
Based on the experiences of the "Consistency and Habitat" project at the Ering-Frauenstein power plant, VERBUND has developed a similar project for the area surrounding the Braunau-Simbach power plant: the aim is to connect waterways, make wetlands more dynamic and create habitats on land and in the water.
At the start of the project, Achim Kaspar, member of the Executive Board of VERBUND responsible for generation, digitalisation and sustainability at VERBUND, stressed the importance of hydropower for society and for our energy future: "Hydropower is an important pillar of renewable generation in Bavaria and in Austria, and guarantees the security of supply – now and in the future. With investments extending to 15 billion euros over the next 10 years, VERBUND is fully focused on the energy future. By 2025 alone, 1.24 billion euros will be invested in hydropower". Looking to the future, Kaspar emphasises the necessity and possibility to generate more electricity from hydropower: "A renewable future without hydropower is unimaginable and can be ecologically implemented, as we are proving day after day. 800 million euros are earmarked for the modernisation of our power plants on the Inn, in order to generate more electricity from them. But we are also thinking about responsible expansion, such as on the Unterer Salzach or at the Riedl energy store. In parallel with this, VERBUND is investing 400 million euros in ecological measures for sustainable hydropower in Austria and Bavaria."
Karl Heinz Gruber, managing director of VERBUND Grenzkraftwerke, emphasised the ecological self-image of hydropower at VERBUND: "Wherever possible, we always endeavour to use the making of consistency for the creation of new habitats on land and in the water. In this way, we give back to nature a little of what was lost in past centuries through the many kinds of human activity in the regions." That this is working is evident from extensive monitoring activities at already completed fish passes, such as, for example, at the Ering-Frauenstein power plant, where the migration of 36 different species has been documented. "These results prove the high degree of suitability of the near-natural bypass river that is also planned here at the Braunau-Simbach power plant. For the Inn alone between Bavaria and Austria as well as in Bavaria we have earmarked investments in the amount of 100 million euros for ecological measures in the period to 2027." That the scope of the measures extends well beyond the power plant areas is thanks to the good cooperation with partners and the LIFE funding programme of the EU: "The financing contributions are making it possible for us think on a large scale and in joined-up ways. With the two LIFE projects "LIFE Riverscape Lower Inn" and "LIFE Blue Belt Danube-Inn", the Danube will be passable to aquatic life again from the Iron Gate on the border between Serbia and Romania as far as Passau and further along the Inn as well as into the Salzach."
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Achim Kaspar and Karl Heinz Gruber thanked the project partners of "LIFE Riverscape Lower Inn", the government of Lower Bavaria as Higher Conservation Authority, the Bavarian State Fishing Association, the Conservation Department of the Office of the Upper Austrian Provincial Government and the Upper Austrian Provincial Fishing Association
About the "Consistency and Habitat" project at the Braunau-Simbach power plantThe project area begins above the Braunau-Simbach power plant on the Bavarian side of the Inn at kilometre 63.0 and extends to the tailwaters of the power plant at Inn kilometre 60.6. The new bypass river will have a length of about 3.1 km and overcome a height difference of about 10.50 m. The flow rate in the bypass river will be adjusted to suit the season and, mimicking the natural dynamics, will amount to between 2,000 and 6,000 litres per second. Initial operation is scheduled for summer 2024. Costs are estimated to be around 8.2 million euros, with a portion being funded via the LIFE programme of the EU.
"LIFE Riverscape Lower Inn" and "LIFE Blue Belt Danube-Inn"
Among other things, VERBUND is the operator of the hydropower plants on the Inn and Danube and is committed to the co-existence of nature, the environment and sustainable electricity generation from regenerative hydropower. In order to create consistency and near-natural habitat, VERBUND has already implemented four LIFE projects on the Danube in the last two decades and participated in another.
As part of the cross-border LIFE project "Riverscape Lower Inn", launched in 2020, extensive measures for upgrading the ecology of the riverscape on the Lower Inn at the border between Bavaria and Upper Austria by 2028 are also being joined by the construction of bypass rivers at the Egglfing-Obernberg and
Braunau-Simbach power plants on the Inn. Moreover, as part of the LIFE project "Blue Belt Danube-Inn" launched in 2021, construction of fish passes at the Danube power plants Ybbs-Persenbeug, Aschach and Jochenstein as well as at the Inn power plants Passau-Ingling and Schärding-Neuhaus will by 2029 enable the migration of fish along the Danube from the Iron Gate on the Serbian-Romanian border all the way to Passau and on along the Inn to
the Tyrol and Engadin as well as into the Salzach. In addition, water ecological measures such as desedimentation and bank structuring are planned in the Danube and Inn storage areas.
The costs for the project "LIFE Riverscape Lower Inn" and "LIFE Blue Belt Danube-Inn" are estimated at around 30 million euros and 65 million euros respectively, with 8.2 million euros and 8.5 million euros respectively being funded via the LIFE programme of the EU.
LIFE Riverscape Lower Inn
LIFE Network Danube Plus
Fish passes and new habitat on the Danube between Altenwörth and Greifenstein