Kopitarna Dam, Slovenia

The Kopitarna Dam removal will be the first dam removal in Slovenia. Its removal will increase public safety, provide new recreational opportunities, restore freshwater fisheries, and improve hydromorphology and river ecology.

Introduction

The Sevnična River is approximately 25 km long and has a strong population of endangered stone crayfish and brown trout. It originates on the northern slopes of Mount Bohor in the Green Posavje region in Slovenia. It flows through the town of Sevnica and is a left tributary of the Sava River, Slovenia’s longest and economically most important river. Along the Sevnična River, meadows and forests support a rich diversity of plant and animal species. It is a habitat for Clusi’s feverfew and Carniolan lilies. The river is also known for trout fish, which are an endangered species in Slovenian rivers; their populations are in constant decline due to obstacles in rivers.

The entire area of the Municipality of Sevnica and its rivers, including the Sevnična River, provide conditions for many recreational activities, including hiking, biking and fishing. Visitors to the area can also learn about the rich cultural history of the municipality and discover legends of love and freedom told through the ages. This project directly continues that tradition, reaffirming the importance of freedom to preserve life in the river. As it is situated in an accessible area, the project links people and nature, creating new opportunities to enjoy this freshwater treasure. It will also build a case for other dam removals in Slovenia and the Balkan region. It supports the ecological restoration of rivers and serves new local economies based on flourishing freshwater fisheries, better water quality, restored sediment transports, and reduced flood risk.

At a glance

CountrySlovenia
RiverSevnična
Km to be opened25
Key habitatsMeadows and forests
Focal speciesStone crayfish, trout fish
Project typeDam removal (pre-demolition)
Project statusLive

Project context and opportunity

The Kopitarna Dam has negative impacts on water quality metrics like temperature, nutrients, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. The dam obstructs the passage of brown trout (Salmo trutta fario) and freshwater mussels, which are both important indicators of the Sevnična River’s water quality and play an essential role in the riparian ecosystem. At the moment, river connectivity is disabled. By removing the Kopitarna Dam, fish will be able to migrate across the system, ensuring the survival of mussel populations across the Sevnična river system.

The numerous benefits of this dam removal also include increasing the public safety, providing new recreational opportunities, restoring freshwater fisheries, and improving hydromorphology and river ecology. After restoring the river, fishing, hiking and other tourism activities will be possible in the area. Easily accessible from nearby towns, local communities will be able to enjoy everything the river has to offer, including spending time on small natural riverside beaches made of round, smooth river gravel. It is to be expected that the overall water quality will improve in the months and years following the dam removal.

Project aims

To achieve project aims, this project will serve as an important step forward in restoring one of the important tributaries of the Sava River, Slovenia’s longest river and one of Europe’s great rivers. Vital steps forward in restoring the Sevnična River are as follows:

  • Dam removal project development and management
  • Project partnership development, communications, and engagement
  • Stakeholder and local community engagement to promote dam removal
  • Support local civil society organisations in the dam removal effort
  • Promote citizen science
  • Dam removal project implementation: field survey and engineering designed for dam removal, dam removal implementation, monitoring and evaluation

Partners

WWF

Ribiška Družina Slovenije

Sevnica Municipality