VERBUND, Austria’s leading hydropower company, is proceeding with the greening of its hydropower plants and today opened Europe’s longest fish bypass in cooperation with its project partners. After a construction phase lasting just over one year, the fish can now make use of a more than 14 km-long bypass channel around the Ottensheim-Wilherig power plant for their annual migration. The project was executed as part of the LIFE+ Network Danube project and financially supported by the European Union, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism, as well as by the provincial governments and provincial fishery associations of Upper and Lower Austria.Over a distance of 14.2 kilometres, the local conditions were used not only to construct an extensive bypass channel but also to create new habitats for plants and animals. By integrating the waterway section of the Brandstätter arm, the Aschach diversion channel and the Innbach, fish will in future be able to take a natural route around the dam at the Ottensheim-Wilhering power plant. In total, 320,000 m³ of soil and gravel were moved.
“The environment along the rivers where our power plants are located is, of course, a subject that is very close to our hearts. On the basis of the European Water Framework Directive and our own developments, we are in the process of making all our plants even more environmentally friendly in the coming years. At the Ottensheim-Wilhering and Aschach power plants, we already gave impetus for the sake of the environment in the 1990s, and today’s opening of Europe’s longest fish bypass undoubtedly represents another milestone in this regard,” says Karl Heinz Gruber, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH. “In creating this ecologically designed bypass arm, we not only removing a further obstacle to fish but also providing an important habitat and spawning ground for the main species of fish that live in the Danube.”
Michael Amerer, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH, says, “We have taken a big step towards our goal of creating continuity of flow at all our power plants and structuring our storage areas to improve ecological conditions and ecological potential. Our comprehensive actions are seen as a model for the whole of Europe, for which we are prepared to invest a total of around €280 million by 2025. Investment in the measures around the Ottensheim-Wilhering power plant, which form part of the Danube-wide LIFE+ “Network Danube” project, amounts to around €8 million. In addition to funding provided by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism in the amount of around €1.1 million within the scope of the water ecology environmental grant, the project was also supported with funding provided by the financing partners, including the European Union, the provinces of Lower Austria and Upper Austria as well as provincial fishing associations.”
Completion in time for “World Fish Migration Day”
Dry weather and a lean project structure made it possible to bring forward completion of the project, originally planned for the autumn, to the spring for “World Fish Migration Day” on 21 May 2016.
New freshness for flora and fauna
The bypass channel fulfils the stringent ecological and technical requirements of the guidelines on the construction of fish migration aids through its sophisticated construction. The natural design of the channel with deep (potholes) and shallow (fords) sections as well as bays created further habits for fish and other animals. The gravel banks and flat water zones should above all also benefit current-loving fish such as the pigo, asp and zingel. The habitat for bird fauna – in particular of gravel breeders – is also being improved.