Beja Watermill, Latvia

The Beja Watermill removal will be the first dam removal in Latvia. It will reconnect critical fish migration routes, and improve water and sediment movement.

Introduction

River Aluksne is a small, fast-flowing river in the Eastern part of Latvia. It is 24 km long and flows from lake Aluksne and enters the Pededze River. The Beja Dam is the only migration barrier in the river, dividing the river roughly in half.

Several municipalities and state-funded fish monitoring projects have occurred in River Aluksne and River Pededze watersheds over the past few years. The results showed that the river is an essential habitat for endangered freshwater fish species.

However, roughly half of the suitable habitat in River Aluksne is unavailable to the endangered migratory freshwater fish species because of the barrier. Observations during the fish monitoring projects and information from local anglers’ clubs indicate that Beja reservoir warms up considerably during the summer period (water temperatures reaching up to 23°C), making large areas above and below the dam inhospitable for ecologically sensitive riverine fish and invertebrate species.

At a glance

LocationBeja town, Alūksne municipality
CountryLatvia
RiverAlūksne River
Km to be opened24
Focal speciesbrown trout, grayling, European chub, burbot, European brook lamprey
Project typeDam removal (demolition)
Websitewww.pdf.lv
Project statusLive

Project context and opportunity

The dam removal would give fish and invertebrates access to the upper half of the river. It is projected that this would, in turn, result in a significant boost to the endangered riverine fish species populations in the larger river Pededze basin, as Aluksne is the largest tributary that provides spawning grounds for brown trout and grayling. It would also restore natural river flow and decrease the river water temperature to normal/typical for fast-flowing rivers.

Removing the barrier and restoring the river would open up the possibility of making this a kayaking route. Kayaking/boating is a popular activity in Latvia during the summer, but many kayakers face different dams on their trips. In cooperation with local businesses, the municipality has already developed several popular kayaking routes on River Pededze and has expressed interest in including River Aluksne in its network of routes.

There would also be great new fishing opportunities as upstream fish migration would contribute to angling tourism development in the area. Managing recreational river fisheries focusing on sustainable catch and release salmonid fishing is becoming increasingly popular with local and visiting anglers all around Northeastern Europe.

Additionally, hiking routes along the river could be developed, and infrastructure, such as a playground for kids, could be installed where the lake used to be.

Project aims

The project’s main objective is to remove the barrier currently blocking fish species’ migration and water and sediment movement. Its removal would also increase the area suitable for ecologically sensitive fish and invertebrate species. This would be the first dam to be removed in Latvia.

Taking down the only barrier on Alūksne River would serve as the first step in a larger framework to remove all the barriers and restore the larger River Pededze basin. Pededze is one of the bigger rivers in Latvia, with a total length of 159km (of which 131 km is in Latvia and 26km in Estonia). The barrier removal on Alūksne would be the first step in opening up the riverways in Northeastern Latvia.

Partners

Pasaules Dabas Fonds in Association with WWF