First water for Lower Austria's longest fish pass

29.03.2021Kirchberg am Wagram, Zwentendorf

The Danube power plant at Altenwörth is no longer an obstacle thanks to Lower Austria’s longest fish pass. The bypass channel creates 12 kilometres of new habitat along the Danube. As the power plant’s operator, VEBUND is additionally improving the bathing quality of the old course of the Danube at Altenwörth in cooperation with the market municipality of Kirchberg am Wagram. Together with fish-friendly measures in the area of the “Gießgang” in the headwaters of the Greifenstein power plant, the project “LIFE Network Danube Plus” is thus being created in partnership and with co-financing of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT), the province of Lower Austria and the Lower Austrian Regional Fishing Association as well as the European Union within the scope of the LIFE+ projects.

“Such pleasing project progress fills us with particular pride because it enables us to create ecological value added for coming generations,” says VERBUND CEO Michael Strugl. “We bring hydropower and ecology into line wherever possible. Sustainable electricity generation and places of retreat for biodiversity have become a rare sight on the Danube, and this is where we turning things around.” 
“Intact natural landscapes and waterbodies are amongst our country’s greatest treasures and handling them carefully is the basis for a secure future in all areas. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism is making 200 million euros in financing available for the refurbishment of waterbodies. Investments in the ecology of waterbodies are also investments in the quality of life of the people who live in the regions. That’s why my department is supporting the implementation of the fish ladder at Altenwörth power plant as part of the LIFE Network Danube Plus project, as this represents a major upgrade to the natural environment along the Danube,” says Federal Minister Elisabeth Köstinger.

Deputy Provincial Governor Stephan Pernkopf: “We protect what we love and give more space back to nature. This project enables fish to pass unhindered again and migrate over large distances. It also shows that the energy transition and greening in Lower Austria, the land of nature, go hand in hand.”

First partial flooding connects Krems-Kampf channel with the Danube 

After a year under construction, the bed of the new fish bypass is now largely complete. In total, the work will involve the movement of 580,000 cubic metres of gravel and fine sediment. The excavated materials will be used in the area of the old river course.
The excavator removed the embankment to the Krems-Kampf channel, thus re-establishing the fish-friendly connection of the two Waldviertel rivers with the Danube

Further construction work 

Until the beginning of June, it will continue to be difficult for cyclists to cross the old course and the power plant. The project management is endeavouring to keep the crossing open on weekends, when no work takes place. Unfortunately, however, full closures cannot be ruled out during modification of the old course sill. The new sill to the old course is scheduled to reopen to cycle traffic by the start of the summer.
Lower Austria's longest fish pass
The fish pass will be Lower Austria’s longest at more than 12.5 km in length. It connects land restoration projects on the Danube and its tributaries, thereby boosting the diversity of species in the Danube. From the Iron Gate in Romania to Ybbs, the Danube is becoming passable again and being upgraded with places of ecological retreat.
In addition to the fish pass, VEBUND is improving the bathing quality of the old course of the Danube at Altenwörth in cooperation with the market municipality of Kirchberg am Wagram. An artificial biotope is being constructed on both banks of the old course. The idea behind this “constructed wetland” is that the water should clean itself. The excess quantity of nutrients is filtered out and reduced. This is intended to reduce the growth of algae to a natural level. A model for the water quality of the old course at the Danube power plant Greifenstein.

Project partners in LIFE Network Danube Plus

The project "LIFE Network Danube Plus" is being implemented by VERBUND and significantly financed by the EU within the scope of the LIFE+ programme, the Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism, the provincial government of Lower Austria and the provincial fishing association of Lower Austria. Also involved are the companies entitled to purchase electricity at the Greifenstein and Altenwörth power plants: EVN AG, Wien Energie AG, Energie AG, Kärntner Elektrizitäts-AG and Vorarlberger Kraftwerke AG.