Prepping to remove five dams in the Apennine area - Italy's first-ever weir removal project
The Giovenco River is a 44 km Apennine watercourse that originates in an area rich in springs, crosses the villages of Bisegna, Ortona dei Marsi and Pescina, enters the Fucino collector channel called “Immissario Torlonia”, and flows into the Liri River. The Giovenco River receives numerous seasonal and perennial spring contributions captured for drinking, industrial use and feeding the aqueduct. In the terminal part of the mountain course, near the town of Pescina, the river’s flow is blocked by a barrier serving to store water for irrigation; further downstream, the Giovenco River turns into a heavily modified water body, regulated and cemented, which flows into the Fucino drainage channel.
In 2000, the enlargement of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park included the Giovenco valley. The rivers position, stretching towards the Fucino plain, takes on a leading role in terms of nature conservation, representing the natural corridor that connects the vast area of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park to the south-east and the Sirente-Velino massifs, within the Sirente Velino Regional Park, to the west.
As mentioned, in its mountainous portion, the watercourse is still largely natural and with continuous riparian strips; however, 15 small dams exist in just 25 km of extension along the valley; some of these barriers are still in use, such as those serving the aqueduct and the irrigation plant, some are unused, and others have probably lost their hydraulic function, and they all disrupt river continuity.
|Potential km to be opened
|riparian forest in the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise NP
|Salmo macrostigma or Salmo cettii, Austropotamobius pallipes, Ursus arctos marsicanus
|Barrier identification and prioritisation
The project finances the preparatory activities for removing five reinforced concrete small dams in the upper course of the Giovenco River, in the municipal territory of Bisegna and the protected area of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park. These activities consist of feasibility studies to define the ecological-environmental, legal-administrative, and socio-economic framework for the development of the removal project, the preparation of the technical design documents, and the actions to support the local community’s awareness towards river problems and explore the potential for removal.
Given the typical intrinsic fragility of the Apennine’s small watercourses in their upper portion, the project is intended to demonstrate how removing the selected dams and the consequent restoration of river processes can maximize the ecological impacts at the basin scale.
It is expected that the removal project will achieve several outcomes and result in an original and exclusive initiative as follows:
This project will increase the technical and practical know-how of the Italian bureaucratical workflow related to dam removal, establish a positive and collaborative network with local authorities to make this workflow easier and quicker for future dam removals, and provide the for RE to start promoting activities with a sensational launch, as it would be the first weir removed in Italy.
The Giovenco River can be a case study that will show how a river can be protected by the communities, paving the road for future projects on wildlife restoration of white-clawed crayfish and Mediterranean trout and where the return of the otter is expected, after 50 years of extinction, for the next seasons.
Removing these dams would be the first of its kind in the Apennine area. It would offer a model that can be replicated in other dam removal projects within the same valley or similar catchment basins. The experience gained through this project would represent a good practice to stimulate similar initiatives. The type of implemented measures could make projects more easily eligible to access European structural funds, thus positively influencing the policy aiming at “freeing rivers”, in line with the commitment outlined by the European Union Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 to restore at least 25,000 km of free-flowing rivers.