Restoring connectivity in the major rivers is one of the central goals stipulated by the European Water Framework Directive for the coming years. A near-natural stream allows fish to overcome the 14.5 metre difference in altitude near this Danube power plant. This calls for a 4 kilometre long channel which was incorporated into the ecologically valuable areas in the Greifensteiner Au wetlands. A total of more than 400,000 m3 of gravel were moved in the wetlands area near the Greifenstein power plant. The project costs total approximately EUR 8 million. VERBUND is bearing about half of the expense.
"With our contributions all over Austria and especially on the Danube, we are proving that electricity from hydropower is the most sustainable, cleanest and safest form of domestic electricity generation" says Member of the Board Günther Rabensteiner (VERBUND AG). "Nowadays our competence is internationally valued not only in the technical field of generating electricity from hydropower, but also in the area of ecological projects. The order of the day in the areas of environment, climate and energy is to use the resource of hydropower in the best possible way and to expand future options with high standards for ecological compatibility, and in this way to strengthen the backbone of the secure domestic supply."
"Water is an indispensable basis of life for humankind and nature, and we are conscious of its significance. A lot has already been invested in protecting water bodies in Austria. What we are working on intensively at the moment is improving the structure of the water bodies and removing migratory barriers for fish. Implementing such large projects as the Greifenstein fish bypass is bringing us a large and important step forwards. So the Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism is supporting this project with funding totalling EUR 980,000" notes Josef Plank, Secretary General of the Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism at the opening ceremony.
"Over the last years, the province of Lower Austria has invested a lot of effort in creating interconnected habitats in the area of the Danube and its large tributaries. In this way we are making a great contribution to biodiversity in the nature province of Lower Austria. The fish ladder near the Greifenstein power plant was therefore supported with provincial funding in the amount of EUR 310,000" says Deputy Provincial Governor Stephan Pernkopf.
"Greifenstein has always been a place where hydropower not only ensured CO2-free electricity generation, but where revolutionary ecological feats have been achieved. Just as the Giessgang watering channel was a pioneer 30 years ago, the near-natural fish bypass stream is one today. With its opening we are not only celebrating another very important milestone in creating connectivity on the Danube, but on top of that additional habitats have been created for the water fauna and birds" notes Karl Heinz Gruber, Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH.
"The comprehensive approach in implementing the fish bypass project was important. So in addition to ecological aspects, we also always make sure that the economic parameters are right. We are pleased to have found important financing partners for this large investment in the environment, most notably of course the European Union, as well as the federal government, the provinces of Upper and Lower Austria, and the Fisheries Associations of these two provinces. And lastly we are also pleased that Austrian companies were involved in implementing the project, which ensured regional value creation" adds Michael Amerer, Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH.
Fresh habitats along the Danube
In Greifenstein, scours (deep sections) and specially anchored deadwood provide habitats for water fauna and birds. Two compensation structures ensure the necessary amounts of water even during low- or high-water periods. The stream benefits biodiversity by providing habitats and spawning areas, giving a "booster shot" to the Danube.
Connecting ecological zones along the Danube
Connectivity for fish is just one of the goals for the LIFE+ Network Danube project. The primary objective is to connect existing ecologically healthy areas and renaturation projects. The Greifenstein fish bypass is located within the European nature reserve "Tullnerfelder Danube wetlands", the largest contiguous wetlands area in Austria.
Partners in the LIFE+ Network Danube project
VERBUND started the LIFE+ Network Danube project in 2011, a project which aims to achieve connectivity along certain stretches of the Danube as well as to establish special structural measures in head-of-reservoir areas in the form of gravel banks, islands and branches. Over the coming years and with a total expenditure of about EUR 25 million, VERBUND and six financing partners (EU, Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism, the provincial governments of Upper and Lower Austria, and the Fisheries Associations of Upper and Lower Austria) will improve the fish fauna in four Natura 2000 areas and in tributary systems.
Background information: www.life-netzwerk-donau.at