Ground-breaking ceremony for Upper Austria's largest fish bypass


As part of the LIFE+ Network Danube project, the Danube power plant Ottensheim-Wilhering will become passable for fish once more thanks to the creation of Austria's longest fish bypass.

Ground-breaking ceremony in Brandstatt/Pupping: VERBUND, Austria's leading electricity provider and operator of five Danube power plants in Upper Austria, is commencing the construction of a 14.2-km fish ladder on the right bank of the Danube. Among the interested guests were Deputy State Governor Franz Hiels, Member of State Parliament Ulrike Schwarz, as well as other representatives of the Eferding District Authority, the Mayors of the Municipalities of Alkoven, Ottensheim and Wilhering, and the project partners. Back in winter 2014, in preparation for Austria's longest fish ladder, the first clearing of pasture land took place and now the real construction work begins. In autumn 2016, the fish ladder is to be completed and then the diverse national aquatic animals will be able to circumnavigate the power plant. At the same time, renaturation measures are being implemented in the Ottensheim-Wilhering reservoir area, which will provide additional habitats for plants and animals. Investments in these measures, which are part of the Danube-wide "Network Danube" LIFE+ Project, amount to a total of around 8 million euros.

Compliance with the EU Water Framework Directive

Michael Amerer, General Manager of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH: "On the basis of the European Water Framework Directive, all prioritised flowing waters in the European Union are to be made passable within the next years. As a sustainable, national hydropower company, of course we will comply with this directive fully and completely. Not only are we constructing fish ladders, but also comprehensive structural measures in the reservoirs as well as in the residual water stretches in order to safeguard the good ecological condition and the good ecological potential of the waters. In 2014 alone, we invested around 23 million euros to this end and, by 2025, a total of over 280 million euros will go towards ecology.“

Enhancement of habitats

At the Ottensheim-Wilhering power plant, VERBUND is now commencing construction of a fish ladder that is adapted to local conditions. Via a 14.2-km diversion route through the Innbach-Aschach channel, the natural discharge dynamics of the tributaries are simulated by means of season-dependent water volumes and new habitats are thus created. Overall, 30-40 ha of flowing water habitats will be enhanced thanks to the new fish ladder.

"The living environments of the rivers where our power plants are located are very important to us. In the last few years, at individual sites we already began to improve the ecologically valuable habitats along the Danube. At the Ottensheim-Wilhering and Aschach power plants, for example, we began providing impulses for the environment back in the 1980s, which are now being successfully continued with the ground-breaking ceremony for the Ottensheim-Wilhering fish ladder," says Karl Heinz Gruber, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH. "Specifically, several biotopes were constructed back then on the banks of the Danube, e.g. 'Windstoss' and 'Neuhaus' in the Aschach reservoir area, as well as 'Langer Haufen' and 'Weidet' in the Ottensheim-Wilhering reservoir area."

Deputy State Governor Franz Hiesl was very pleased: "With the fish ladder in the reservoir area of the Ottensheim-Wilhering power plant, a unique project is being implemented. As a passionate fisherman, I am grateful to the electricity company VERBUND for the ecological enhancement of the fish habitats. We are giving nature back a piece of natural habitat.“

Member of State Parliament Ulrike Schwarz:  "I'm very happy that, in addition to the flood protection measures in the Eferding basin area, steps are also being implemented for the ecological quality of the Upper Austrian Danube. Through the construction of sustainable and near-natural bypass streams and fish ladders, previously impassable constructions in rivers become passable once more for fish and other organisms. Our water inhabitants can therefore live and travel unimpeded once again!“

Symbolic ground-breaking with digger

In order to celebrate the start of construction, the symbolic ground-breaking is taking place today in Brandstatt, Pupping, in the presence of numerous renowned and interested guests, through a digger by the executing construction company PORR.

Once completed, the fish ladder will bypass the Ottensheim-Wilhering power plant, with the diversion channel in the southern Eferding basin integrating sections of water from the Brandstätter tributary, the Aschach diversion stream and the Innbach river. The channel thus runs parallel to the old Brandstätter tributary and flows into the residual water section of the Aschach near the town of Brandstatt. In this section, parts of the diversion channel are being completely newly constructed.

New freshness for flora and fauna

According to an assessment of different possibilities, this diversion channel best meets the ecological and technical requirements for passability for fish. Furthermore, through the near-natural design of the construction with deep areas (pools), fords and inlets, additional habitats for fish and other animals are created.

Valuable gravel banks and shallow water areas for rheophile fish species are to be created, where mainly pigo, asp and zingel will benefit significantly. But the habitats for bird fauna – particularly the gravel breeders – will also be improved.  And for aquatic mammals like beavers, otters, etc., an improvement of their sources of food is to be expected.

A LIFE+ Project "Network Danube"

In 2011, VERBUND initiated the LIFE+ Project "Network Danube", which aims to ensure passability at selected sections of the Danube, as well as the construction of special structural measures at the head of reservoirs in the form of gravel banks, islands and tributaries.  With a total investment of around 25 million euros and six financing partners (EU, Ministry of Life, State Governments of Upper and Lower Austria, Upper and Lower Austrian Fishery Associations), the fish fauna of four Natura 2000 areas and tributary systems is improved. Further information on the project can be found at
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