On 9 October 2013, VERBUND, Austria's leading electricity provider and operator of the Bavarian power plants on the river Inn, received an environmental award for its structuring measures in promoting flora and fauna in the reservoirs in Wasserburg, Teufelsbruck and Gars. With its numerous structuring measures, VERBUND significantly contributes to the long-term preservation of the fish population and biodiversity. The prize was awarded to Managing Director of the VERBUND Inn power plants Michael Amerer by District Administrator Josef Neiderhell, Chairman of the Fishing and Hunting Association in the Rosenheim district Ronald Zillner, and Chairman of the Wasserburg District Fishing Association Franz Göpfert. The €5,000 prize money will be placed at the disposal of the Rosenheim and Wasserburg fishing association for their youth work. Words of welcome for the prize-winners were also spoken by Werner Zwingmann, Chairman of the Rosenheim Hunting association, Alfons Blank, President of the Fishing Association of Upper Bavaria and Margit Böhm from the Rosenheim Lower Nature Conservation Authority. The Inntaler hunting horn blowers provided the musical entertainment.
VERBUND is particularly happy about having received this award. "Hydroelectric power plant operators are accused in the public realm of negatively impacting the environment in the areas surrounding flowing water" says Managing Director of the VERBUND Inn power plants Michael Amerer. "Every technological intervention represents a change in the ecosystem, however, hydropower in particular offers sustainable production of electricity and the unique chance to sustain flora and fauna in a natural environment through the implementation of special measures" says Mr Amerer.
In the last century the river Inn has caused a lot of distress for the locals due to flooding. A consequence of this was that already in the 18th century the river was straightened and "tamed". Later, in the course of power plant construction, further flood protection was added, which significantly altered the character of the river, but increased safety for the population.
"In this respect the accusation regarding the negative impact is not correct. In the areas around the dams, as an indirect consequence, valuable natural zones as well as attractive leisure areas for people have come about since the 1930s through the building of the barrage" explains Mr Amerer, "I am particularly pleased that the environmental measures in place withstood this year's flooding very well".
District Administrator Josef Neiderhell is very proud of the roughly 35 structuring measures in place in his district and is pleased with partner VERBUND: "It shouldn't be taken for granted that an electricity provider such as VERBUND should invest at all in the improvement of the ecological condition of the river. And not only have they invested, but also significantly gone way beyond their contractual and legal requirements."
"VERBUND is a company which takes its duties for the preservation of nature on the river Inn seriously" emphasizes Franz Göpfert. "Sustainability and a sense of responsibility are not only keywords which are enshrined in its mission statement, but are actively and purposefully implemented", Mr Göpfert praises the valuable and successful cooperation between associations, organizations and the power plant operator.
Prize Money for the Youth Work Done by the Fishing Associations
For VERBUND, fishing associations and hydropower are fundamental partners of nature and the region. "The habitat of the river combines and connects us and we should therefore further provide support for this habitat together through coordinated actions. One of the actions taken involves the use of the prize money, which we shall be donating to the youth work done by the fishing associations", informs Karl Heinz Gruber, Managing Director at the VERBUND Innkraftwerke GmbH.
In order to raise early awareness already of the unique nature on the river Inn, members of the fishing associations will take part in activity days in schools or within the framework of holiday programmes in the city district and in the city. As a type of "natural classroom", living creatures in and on water in selected sections of the river Inn will be caught in small nets and be put in aquariums. Accompanying teachers will explain the interaction between water-habitat-fauna-flora to the youngsters.
The prize money, which will be awarded by VERBUND, will here be used for equipment (landing nets, aquariums and accompanying teachers) and for transport with bus companies from the meeting point to the selected river sections.
The programme will be rounded off by a guided tour through one of the two VERBUND Inn river power plants, either Rosenheim or Wasserburg, which will visually show the children the power of water in generating electricity and explain how the river Inn acts as a life-giver to people and the environment.
Additionally, child and youth orientated information leaflets about the different types of fish in and on the river Inn, with an article about the river and the barrages with hydropower, have been created, which will be used during school lessons.
Multiannual Measures to Improve the Inn Eco-system
Within the framework of an agreement with the Bavarian State Ministry of the Environment, VERBUND will implement numerous ecological measures in the whole Inn area. Thus, by 2015, the passage of fish will be established and structural improvements, unloading and improvement of habitats in the areas around the dams will be carried out. In total the costs for all this will reach around 20 million euros, which will represent a classical win-win situation for all involved.
In order to implement these nature-revival measures, VERBUND is working closely with the fishing associations of Rosenheim, Wasserburg and Isaria, who have always brought forward valuable ideas for the habitat design.
"We held a 'large round' of discussions with the fishing associations, Bund Naturschutz (conservation association), the District Association for the Protection of Birds and the authorities - be it with the active Rosenheim water management authority, fishing industry specialist consultants, the Lower Nature Conservation Authority in the district office of Rosenheim, the Upper Nature Conservation Authority in the government of Upper Bavaria as well as the approving authority in water legislation in the district office of Rosenheim and Mühldorf - we did this in order to minimize possible negative impacts and to coordinate possible measures in advance" say both VERBUND Innkraftwerke (river Inn power plants) Managing Directors.
The planning and consulting offices of engineering firm Schober managed by Christoph Stein (Wasserburg and Gars) and the engineering firm Aquasoli managed by Ralf Schindlmayer (Teufelsbruck) as well as fishing industry expert Dr. Manfred Holzner proposed some ideas and brought with them experience as well as knowledge of the needs of the fish fauna and the entire Inn river habitat system. Especially the laborious rescue by hand of over 4000 mussels from the necessary dredging carried out as a structuring measure were considerably aided by the Rosenheim and Wasserburg fishers, who took part with a lot of commitment and with the advice from the coordination unit for mussels from the TU München Weihenstephan, under the management of Katharine Stöckl.
Fish Bypasses on the River Inn
The structuring measures on the reservoirs of Teufelsbruck, Gars and Wasserburg have been partly concluded or will be strengthened. The focus is currently on the planning and implementation of fish migration by 2015. Thus the fish ladder in Feldkirchen (by Rosenheim) is still to go into operation this Autumn, the fish ladder in Neuötting is under construction; Wasserburg, Teufelsbruck and Gars are in the wings. The other barrages of Perach, Stammhamm and Rosenheim will follow by 2015.
The Next Structuring Measures in Rosenheim
The next measures for the long-term preservation of the fish population and biodiversity in the reservoir area of Rosenheim and Feldkirchen are in direct accordance with the authorities. In light of the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive, VERBUND is taking strides towards carrying out the next measures for the entire river and floodplain habitats on the Inn.