Frequently asked questions

We have compiled a series of questions and answers that may be useful to applicants. If your question is not answered below or in our Information Guide for Applicants, please contact us.

What is a small dam?
The term ‘dam’ is used by the programme to refer to any man-made barrier that has been constructed transversely across a river to alter its flow and thus the transport of sediments or the movement of organisms. Examples include dams, weirs, culverts, fords, and sluices. The programme generally refers to a small dam as one between 1 – 3 metres in height.

How long is a typical grant cycle?
A full grant cycle takes approximately nine months from the date of our call for new Expressions of Interest to receiving a grant award. A4 Dam removal (pre-demolition work previously funded by the programme) and Category C grants take approximately four months from the date of our call for Proposals.

Are countries or organisations outside of Europe eligible to apply?
The Open Rivers Programme supports projects within Greater Europe. For a list of those countries, please review our Information Guide for Applicants.

Can I apply for more than one grant?
We will accept multiple project applications from the same coordinating organisation. Applicants should use one application for multiple barriers within the same catchment as long as the project sites are at the same phase of work. If your projects are in several different catchments, you should submit a separate application for each catchment.

What is the difference between Category A1 Barrier identification and prioritisation and A2 Pre-demolition?
Category A1 grants are specifically designed for projects encompassing an entire catchment or a substantial portion, with the primary objective of identifying, assessing, and prioritising instream barriers for potential removal. A crucial deliverable for these grants is the development of a comprehensive barrier inventory, including pertinent details such as location, dimensions, and visual documentation.

Category A2 grants are tailored to initiatives focused on removing specific barriers already identified. Examples of known barriers may include those recognised through a Category A1 grant, prior assessments or existing data. These projects may involve preliminary activities before demolition, such as conducting feasibility studies, preparing technical design documents, and obtaining the necessary permissions and permits.

What is the difference between pre-demolition work and dam removal (demolition)?
Pre-demolition work involves activities that are required before dam removal can begin. Some examples of preparatory work include feasibility studies, preparation of technical design documents, and securing permissions and permits.

What is the difference between categories A3 and A4?
An A3 dam removal grant is for new projects that are ready for demolition and where the programme has not supported previous preparatory phases. An A4 dam removal grant supports demolition projects where the programme previously supported preparatory work for the dam. The reason for separating out the different grants is because the application process and questions differ. You will only need to submit a Proposal for an A4 grant, whereas A3 applications are required first to submit an Expression of Interest.

Do you have a maximum grant value?
We do not have a maximum permissible value for most grants, although we apply a maximum cap of €100,000 for catchment development projects. We expect all projects to demonstrate value for money and will assess this during our review of applications. We will look carefully at your activities and the local context and assess the potential ecological impact of your project against the cost.

Can a public sector entity apply for a grant?
As of July 2023, a public entity may apply for a Category A3 Dam removal grant or Category B Enabling others to remove dams grant. However, the criteria for application are more restrictive than that for NGO applicants. Notably, a public entity applying as a lead partner for a Category A3 “Dam removal” grant must provide at least 50% of project costs, i.e. the programme will contribute up to 50% of project costs. Please review the category A and B information guides for full eligibility criteria.

Public entities must demonstrate that the staff managing the grant have the relevant river restoration and dam removal experience to necessarily implement the project. Agency experience alone is not enough.

The intention of this change is for the programme to support the removal of small dams where it might not otherwise be possible to do so due to a lack of dam removal experience in the NGO community or lack of funding. Therefore, applicants must demonstrate a commitment to partnership, involving NGOs and stakeholders in implementing a selected project. Applicants must also describe the availability of public funding for river restoration and dam removal in the implementing country and demonstrate the need for resources provided by the open rivers programme.

Is it possible to apply for a grant from the Open Rivers Programme if part of the proposed project is funded from a different source?

Whilst it is not a mandatory requirement, we strongly welcome co-funding, and your application will be positively reviewed if co-funding is in place. We also strongly welcome applications seeking dam removal funding in locations with other projects with wider ecological benefits. You may also wish to source co-funding for activities in your project that are not supported by the Open Rivers Programme, e.g. post-dam removal restoration.

Are there any match funding requirements for projects supported by the programme?
There are no match funding requirements. However, projects that have sourced funding from other sources to support the dam removal process or for wider restoration measures in the catchment will be viewed favourably.

Is it possible for applicants to regrant funds for similar local initiatives?
This is not possible. All funds released by the programme must be approved by the Open Rivers Programme.

Do all grants need to be completed within one year?
The expected grant duration is up to 12 months, give or take several months to capture the required field season, if appropriate. Depending on the project’s complexity, dam removal timelines can vary widely from inception to demolition. One year is intended to cover one phase of work (e.g. preparatory work or demolition) as determined by the applicant. The applicant should develop a clear project schedule with milestones and deliverables. For projects that require preparatory work before demolition can take place, the applicant is eligible to apply to the programme in successive grant cycles for the same project site i.e. first for preparatory work and then later for demolition.

The expected grant duration is up to three years for category C – enabling the European dam removal movement grants.

A duration of 12 months means that the project must start immediately following the grant award and will end 12 months later. Is it possible to postpone the start of the project so it will last 12 months, but the start and end will be later?
Projects are selected based on the ease with which they can result in dam removal over short timescales, and projects that take longer than 12 months to implement will be seen as less attractive to the programme at the time of application. Once live, all projects must be delivered within 12 months of the grant award, and we are unlikely to agree to postpone the start or end date of a project unless there is an exceptional reason, e.g. severe weather delayed demolition or permit approval took longer than expected.

Do we need to send in an Expression of Interest before applying for categories A or B, and do we need an expression of interest for every submission?
Yes, you need to send in an expression of interest for categories A1, A2, A3, and B1. If you submit a project for an A4 dam removal (pre-demolition work previously funded by the programme) or for Category C, you only need to submit a Proposal. Our application portal makes this process easy as it will lead you in the right direction once you pick which category you are applying for.

Regarding categories A2 preparatory work and A4 dam removal, can you apply for both A2 and A4 for the same barrier?
If a dam is not yet ready for removal, an applicant is encouraged to apply for an A2 pre-demolition work grant first. After the applicant successfully finishes an A2 project (or has completed most of the necessary work), they can apply for dam removal funding under the A4 grant category for that same barrier.

For dam removal, should the first step be to obtain the support of local permitting agencies and communities?
It depends on where you are in the stage of the project. The main steps to take to remove a barrier include:

  1. Identification of the most suitable barriers for removal – catchment development
  2. Preparing barriers for removal – this could include sourcing permits, preparing technical designs, carrying out feasibility studies and any other essential work to prepare for demolition.
  3. Demolition – full removal of the barrier.

You can find more detailed information on preparing projects on our website.

How do you assess ecological significance?
Please review our Information Guide for Applicants for more information on what the programme considers ecologically significant.

Which do we prioritise: a cluster of smaller dams or just one bigger one?
The programme focuses on removing small barriers that will maximise the potential for ecological gain, are achievable in short timeframes, are relatively low risk, stand out as unique and important and demonstrate value for money. Most importantly, the programme would like to support dam removals that open up large stretches of river, impact whole river basins and have a significant ecological impact. Carefully assess your project’s potential to fulfil each of these attributes. If there is the opportunity to remove multiple barriers in a catchment in a single proposal, that is strongly encouraged. Because the grant timeline is limited to approximately 12 months, it may be necessary to apply for removals in different applications over time. If a single removal is part of a holistic basin plan, please discuss the overall restoration goals in the proposal. If you have questions about how to apply for a project with multiple removals proposed over time, please contact us.

For further information, please read Best practices for selecting barriers within European catchments

If I have more than one barrier that I would like to remove, how should I decide which one is more feasible / of higher importance?
Please see the guidance on our website for selecting barriers in catchments. In particular, section 5.3 may be of use. Overall, we are seeking projects that have appraised a whole catchment and selected barriers to be removed that will maximise the potential for ecological gain, are achievable in short timeframes, are relatively low risk, stand out as unique and important and demonstrate value for money.

If there are two rivers in one catchment, one small and one large, can these rivers be in one project? Or do I need to submit two applications? The rivers are far from one another.
You will need to submit one application per catchment, so projects that consider two rivers in one catchment can be submitted as part of one application. Ideally, we welcome applications to prepare for and remove multiple dams within a catchment rather than one isolated dam.

What criteria do you look for to assess whether an NGO is financially sustainable/eligible? What documents will we need to provide to you?
All applicants must send us accounts for the past three financial years. We wish that organisations have a steady income and can handle funds to the size of the grant you are applying for. We also wish that organisations do not rely on just one funder and have several different income streams. If you are looking to apply for a project and you are a new or recently formed NGO, we would like to discuss your suitability before receiving your application.

Should we consider part of a catchment or the whole area for barrier identification and prioritisation projects?
A successful catchment development project will be at a scale that is feasible for the applicant to complete in one year. The programme would like to assess and remove as many barriers as possible, so larger and more ecologically significant catchments are welcome. Ultimately, the scale should be determined by the applicant, judging what is feasible given the specific conditions of the catchment of concern.

Will the full budget be transferred at the start of the project? Or will there be several time points of transfer?
A portion of the grant budget will be given upon signature, upon interim report(s) completion and approval and final report completion and approval.

When applying for Category A and B, is there still funding available for the communication/advocacy around that project?
Yes, owner and community engagement can be an important part of the dam removal process and is an eligible activity/cost under catchment development, preparatory, and dam removal grants. As a part of the application process, we ask that applicants provide a budget and schedule of activities. In this, you may list activities associated with involving the local community and public so long as it relates to the proposed project and is an essential requirement to enable the removal of the dam.

However, the primary objective of the project needs to be barrier removal. The work associated with it should be structured around getting permission and promoting the removal of the barriers that are part of that project. If your overall goal is communications and awareness raising, you may wish to consider applying for a category C grant.

Is a project seeking to remove an illegally built dam considered “controversial or risky”?
A project is generally considered controversial or risky if the dam in question does not have the support of local permitting agencies and communities and if the dam’s demolition could have adverse effects (for whatever reason) following removal. If you would like to discuss your specific case to assess if the programme would consider it to be feasible, please contact us.

Does the programme support project monitoring?
Simple baseline and post-project monitoring are eligible activities, although applicants should consider that activities must be completed within the expected duration of the grant (i.e. one year). A more extensive monitoring programme is being explored and developed by the programme to better understand and communicate dam removal impacts.

Can you explain more about the requirements for public liability insurance for projects that are mentioned in the information guide? Is this only for dam removal?
Public liability insurance covers the cost of claims made by members of the public for incidents that occur in connection with your business activities, for example, personal injuries or loss of or damage to property. As most projects (even catchment development) will have some kind of field component, we expect project implementers to be suitably insured. We would expect that most European NGOs will have public liability insurance already. We ask for all project implementers to hold public liability insurance. Full liability is with the implementing organisation and not the Open Rivers Programme. Therefore, project implementers should carefully assess the risks associated with their project and ensure that appropriate insurance is in place.