Reviving the Yagorlyk River through dam removal

Increasing the Yagorlyk River's free-flowing sections to 50% by exploring the opportunities for dam removal.

Introduction

The Yagorlyk River, located north of the Odessa Region, Ukraine, is a captivating waterway with a length of 73 km and a catchment area spanning 1,590 km2. Flowing into the Republic of Moldova as a tributary of the Dniester, this medium-sized river holds immense significance. Along its picturesque banks are 14 vibrant settlements, home to over 15,000 residents. However, the Yagorlyk has faced challenges due to human intervention.

The regulation of the river has led to various issues, including altered hydrological regimes, waterlogging, overgrowth of reeds in the floodplain, dwindling meadow areas, and transformations in riverine habitats. These problems have also resulted in the deterioration of water quality and the release of hydrogen sulphide, impacting both the environment and the livelihoods of local communities.

Yet, amidst these challenges, the Yagorlyk River and its valley harbour a treasure trove of biodiversity. Notably, the presence of the vulnerable broad-fingered crayfish (Astacus astacus) highlights the importance of conservation efforts. Furthermore, the river mouth is protected within the Yagorlyk Natural Reserve, signifying the commitment to preserve this remarkable ecosystem.

At a glance

CountryUkraine
RiverYagorlyk
Focal speciesBroad-fingered crayfish, Eurasian water shrew, crucian carp
Project typeBarrier identification and prioritisation
Project stausLive

Project context and opportunity

In 2020-2021, a pilot project called “Ecological Restoration of the Yagorlyk River between Villages of Dovzhanka and Rozivka” took place, resulting in the removal of three barriers and the restoration of an 8 km long free-flowing segment. This achievement marked the first successful river restoration case in southern Ukraine, laying the foundation for further restoration efforts and significant improvements in local communities’ quality of life and livelihoods.

Building upon the pilot project’s success, the project team is now embarking on specific initiatives to eliminate additional barriers and ensure the river flows freely. These initiatives will be carried out in collaboration with the local community, fostering a sense of ownership and participation. Approximately 36 km, or roughly 50% of the total river length, is anticipated to be transformed into a free-flowing state.

To achieve this ambitious goal, the project team is undertaking three key activities:

  1. Conducting a comprehensive study of the hydro-ecological state of the Yagorlyk River catchment and assessing the potential for dam removal.
  2. Developing the Yagorlyk Dam Removal and River Restoration Plan to serve as the cornerstone of the project and provide a robust framework for future dam removal and river restoration endeavours.
  3. Facilitating workshops and public hearings to actively engage the local community in the assessment of dam removal potential and the selection of specific dams for removal.

Project aims

The project sets out to create a strong foundation for the ongoing restoration of the Yagorlyk River, with the ambitious goal of increasing its free-flowing sections to encompass 50% of the river’s length. Beyond this crucial objective, the project strives to raise public awareness regarding the benefits of restoration efforts.

By revitalizing the Yagorlyk River, we aim to foster healthy ecosystems and harness the valuable ecosystem services they provide. This restoration endeavour will not only contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and the protection of vital habitats but also bolster local economies against the impacts of climate change. Through economic diversification and an increased focus on nature-based economic activities, communities will become more resilient and thrive in harmony with their natural surroundings.

Partners

Center for Regional Studies

Rewilding Ukraine