Unlocking the flow: strategies for prioritising barrier removal in small rivers in Western Pomerania

Developing and field-testing a prioritisation and selection process database that will identify at least three impactful dams to remove.

Introduction

According to the AMBER database, there are estimated to be between 30 and 50 barriers in the rivers that flow into the Szczecin Lagoon from Poland, within the Oder Delta rewilding landscape. Ongoing research suggests significant potential for dam removal in the Gowienica and Grzybnica-Wolczenica river catchments, which cover 445 km2 and 588 km2, respectively. At least 15 weirs have already been identified, and several other obstacles are yet to be assessed. The potential for dam removal in the small Swiniec and Niemica coastal rivers also remains to be assessed, as well as detailed inventories on the Ina and Gowienica rivers. The goal is to create free migration pathways for aquatic and subaquatic species by removing these barriers. Local partners, such as TIPRIIG, also support removing dams as part of our broader rewilding initiative.

In the aftermath of the Odra catastrophe, these small rivers, typically no longer than 100 km, have become critical refuge zones for the Oder Delta, especially when the Odra remains polluted.

At a glance

CountryPoland
RiverOdra River, Szczecin lagoon catchment
Focal speciesLamprey, salmonids
Project typeBarrier identification and prioritisation
Project statusLive

Project context and opportunity

Most of the areas in question are not heavily used for agriculture. State-owned land dedicated to forestry predominates, although some grazing and farming occur on more fertile land. The stakeholder engagement and public consultation process will aim to address any concerns that residents may have in these areas. Key stakeholders requiring engagement include large farmers, landowners, local inhabitants, and various levels of public administration.

Polish water authorities still strongly focus on hydrotechnical construction and consider water regulation as their primary responsibility. However, proactively engaging with them will provide authorities with a robust, evidence-based list of barriers that should be removed. This approach will enable the freeing of the most vulnerable and valuable rivers that flow into the Szczecin Lagoon, and establish a win-win situation with authorities as they will no longer have to invest in outdated barriers.

Overall, the approach has the potential to enhance river connectivity across the Odra catchment.

Project aims

The overarching objective of this project is to identify and remove a minimum of three impactful dams. This will entail a progressive prioritization and selection process from a database that will be developed and field-tested. Collaboration with experts, authorities, and the broader public will generate the requisite support and ensure practical feasibility for subsequent dam removal.

The project team’s first step involves conducting an in-depth study of the area to identify all registered and unregistered barriers, including small river systems crucial for fish spawning. Based on the initial inventory, we will initiate a consultation process to determine the most promising barriers for removal. Once identified, we will prepare the feasibility plan for removal and replicate this systematic approach in other areas of the Oder Delta.

Partners

Rewilding Oder Delta

TIPRIIG