Breaking mental barriers to remove two weirs along Sabor River

The project aims to resume the preparation for the Prado Novo weir removal and kickstart the preparation for the removal of the Gimonde weir, releasing 7km of river habitat for several important aquatic and semiaquatic species of conservation concern.

Introduction

The Sabor River, part of the Douro Catchment, was up only a few years ago, one of Europe’s last wild, undammed rivers. Unfortunately, the construction of a large hydropower plant in 2013 and several minor barriers obstructed its course, blocking fish movements and impacting several other native species of conservation concern, such as the Pyrenean desman. Two of the barriers are the Prado Novo weir and the Gimonde weir. At least seven native fish species, including two endangered (Cobitis calderoni and Achondrostoma arcasii) and one vulnerable (Squalius alburnoides) species, and four included in annexes of the Habitats Directive, have been reported to occur in the river and suffer from the construction of dams and other fluvial barriers.

At a glance

CountryPortugal
RiverSabor
Key habitatsRiver, scrublands
Focal speciesAchondrostoma arcasii (endangered and Habitats Directive), Cobitis calderoni (endangered), Squalius alburnoides (vulnerable), Salmo trutta (Least Concern), Pseudochondrostoma duriense (Least Concern and Habitats Directive), Luciobarbus bocagei (Least Concern and Habitats Directive), Squalius carolitertii (Least Concern and Habitats Directive), Galemys pyrenaicus (endangered and Habitats Directive), Lutra lutra (Least Concern and Habitats Directive)
Project typeBarrier identification and prioritisation
Project statusLive

Project context and opportunity

This project aims to resume the preparation for the removal of the Prado Novo weir and to prepare the path for the removal of this weir and the Gimonde weir. Both these barriers were prioritised for removal by an Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF) study – note that ICNF is the owner of the Prado Novo weir that previously refused the authorisation of its removal. The project team is confident that the very recent barrier removal made by the ICNF, the positive impact on national policymakers stemming from the Dam Removal Europe international seminar recently held in Lisbon, as well as the upcoming removal of the Galaxes weir and the Perofilho weir, will lead to a change in ICNF’s position regarding the authorisation of the removal of one of the two weirs in this project.

Last year, ICNF did not allow the removal of the Provo Novo weir based on the belief that it is necessary to store water locally. The above-mentioned factors and the major ANP|WWF’s communications campaign around dam removal in Portugal are expected to convince ICNF to change their mind and allow the removal of the Prado Novo weir and authorise the removal of the second weir. This project will thus help strengthen the relationship with ICNF and develop a working relationship with the other mentioned decision-makers, and gain their commitment for future removal projects, both locally and nationally.

The removal of these two barriers will result in opening up 7km of important habitat for several important aquatic and semiaquatic species, such as native fish species, as well as the globally endangered Pyrenean desman and the otter. There are several other barriers in the catchment, and the aim is to map and identify the feasibility of removing them too.

Project aims

The project aims to resume the preparation for the Prado Novo weir removal and kickstart the preparation for the removal of the Gimonde weir, releasing 7km of river habitat for several important aquatic and semiaquatic species of conservation concern, and to strengthen the relationships with national decision makers enhancing the potentialities of future removal projects in Portugal.

One of the key activities will be to resume and reinforce communication and advocacy work with the owner (ICNF) and get their authorisation to remove the Prado Novo weir. For this, the project team will count on the ICNF’s former support for removing the Prado Novo weir and all the other factors mentioned above. The team will engage with ICNF and develop a partnership with them for both Prado Novo and Gimonde weirs, and initiate meetings with the Municipality of França. Following approval, they will initiate a feasibility study for removing both barriers to identify any go/no-go issues then initiate conversations with local communities and decision makers, search for co-funding opportunities and contract a construction company to prepare demolition and river design plans.

Partners

ANP

Logo

WWF