Assessment process

We are looking for small dam removal projects that are highly viable, low risk, and which maximise the potential to restore natural processes in endangered rivers across Europe.

We are looking for applications that demonstrate the following:

Maximise the potential to restore biodiversity

This is the most essential requirement of all projects, and the following will be assessed:

  • Potential to open up large areas of previously fragmented river.
  • Potential to restore endangered habitats or species i.e. river of significant ecological importance.
  • Restore ecological and hydromorphological processes.
  • Restore connectivity between habitats.
  • Provide other benefits to riparian ecology.
  • Please note that proposals in highly fragmented rivers where a series of dam removals will only open up small stretches of river are unlikely to be supported unless there is a convincing case for high ecological restoration potential.

Are highly viable – relatively quick to remove

The programme wishes to make impact over short timescales. Projects must be able to be completed within one year. Projects that take longer than one year will be considered if they are exceptional in terms of their potential for ecological restoration. Demolition projects must have support from relevant local administrations and the local community or be in a position to gain support over a short timescale.

Consider whole river basins and justify the relevance of proposed dam removal/s in opening up a catchment

Evidence that an assessment of opportunities at the river basin level has been conducted. The programme is more likely to support multiple dam removals that open up large stretches of river and impact whole river basins than isolated single removals. The programme will consider the value/rationale behind each proposed removal within a catchment. Single dam removals are less likely to be supported unless it can be proven that they will have a significant ecological impact / open up a large area of river.

Propose the removal of small barriers

The programme’s focus is on small barrier removal projects and we generally select projects with small dams between 1 – 3 metres in height. Some evidence suggests that the removal of barriers of up to two metres in height is the most cost-effective method of restoring river flow. We recognise that setting a fixed height limit may exclude perfectly good cases in some circumstances e.g. where there are few small barriers available to remove in a particular country or where a five-meter high and potentially costly barrier removal is situated on the main stem of a river and would open up a large stretch of river critical to the migration of certain species. Higher barriers will be considered, however, these will be more rigorously assessed and will need to demonstrate exceptional ecological gain against the total cost of the project.

When assessing your application, we will compare your submission against all other submissions and shortlist those projects that maximise the value for money i.e. the amount of ecological restoration that can be achieved against the amount spent by the programme. We will also take into consideration other factors such as the costs in the country where the project will be implemented, whether the project is achievable in a short timeframe, the level of risk, and whether it stands out as unique or important.

Exceptional or unique projects that have wider catalysing impacts

  • An exceptional removal for the ecological restoration of a river.
  • Funding by the programme results in additional funding being provided by others e.g. a feasibility study funded by the programme that results in a third party funding the demolition of the barrier.
  • Trialling a new approach that demonstrates its potential to others.
  • An approach that could positively impact future policy on removing barriers.
  • An additional positive social, economic and/or cultural impact