Free Trebbia River: river restoration through the first dam removals in Italy

The project aims to draft the first catchment development action plan in Italy for the removal of barriers.

Introduction

The Trebbia River is one of the few tributaries of the Po that retains nearly unaltered natural characteristics and considerable landscape-environmental values. Trebbia River has a total length of 116 km, divided into two sections: the mountain stretch (95 km) develops from the source down to Rivergaro, and the plain stretch (21 km), with a multichannel course up to the confluence with Po. The river has a high environmental and geomorphological heterogeneity and valuable biodiversity with a crucial environmental value for groundwater recharge aquifer. The sector where the high course flows out is one of the most uncontaminated valleys of the Apennines. The chemical and ecological status of the river is high/good, and Trebbia’s water is also used for drinking purposes.

Trebbia river flows through three Natura 2000 sites and Trebbia Nature Regional Park. The Trebbia River hosts several threatened species like the Stone curlew, many species of bats and fishes, including Alosa fallax  Anguilla anguilla, Barbus plebejus, Barbus meridionalis. Leuciscus souffia, Cobitis taenia.

Trebbia river is also well known for its beautiful landscapes, recreational opportunities and tourism industry thanks to its beaches.

At a glance

CountryItaly
RiverTrebbia
Potential km to be opened10
Key habitats3220-Alpine rivers and the herbaceous vegetation along their banks, 3240-Alpine rivers and their ligneous vegetation
Key speciesAlosa fallax, Anguilla anguilla, Barbus plebejus, Barbus meridionalis, Leuciscus souffia, Cobitis taenia, Burhinus oedicnemus, Rhinolophus Ferrumequinum
Project typeBarrier identification and prioritisation
Project statusComplete

Project context and opportunity

The Trebbia River is among the most famous Italian rivers for its scenic beauty and ecological values but, like almost all Italian rivers, hosts instream barriers which threaten its biodiversity. The barriers differ by use (motive power, hydroelectric, irrigation, industrial, fish farming, human), size and construction materials. Of the 27 on the Trebbia, several are abandoned or obsolete.

The project proposal results from an in-depth discussion with Emilia Romagna Region, the supporting partner of the project, which is the public body responsible for hydraulic safety and soil protection, for the protected areas, forests and development of mountain areas and permission for barriers and interventions. The meetings with Emilia Romagna Region were focused on the realization of a first positive response to the feasibility of one or more barriers on the Trebbia river.

Already, local communities and associations carried out awareness actions supporting the removal of some barriers in the Trebbia River. This allows the project team to count on stakeholders to support the project and work with them in the future for the removal of one or more barriers.

The project is a great opportunity for Italy because it will be one of the first dam removal projects in the country. Following the recent € 350M investment to restore the Po (catchment), there is now the opportunity to push dam removal as an effective tool to restore rivers in Italy. Moreover, the study can be easily replicated in other tributaries of the Po with similar ecological characteristics to identify obsolete barriers that could be removed by the Emilia- Romagna Region and other public bodies which WWF Italy collaborates with.

Project aims

The project aims to draft the first catchment development action plan in Italy for the removal of barriers. This goal will be achieved with the support and involvement of the Emilia Romagna Region; actions will include analysis and assessment, participatory processes addressing stakeholders and barrier owners, field visits and several communication activities. These activities for dam removal will be the first to be carried out in Italy. Therefore, the project incorporates highly innovative and demonstrative values, resulting in a relevant replication/transfer potential.

Trebbia’s catchment development action plan will identify the barriers for which removal is a feasible option and will provide analyses concerning: hydraulic aspects, geomorphological implications, impacts on fish communities and ecological aspects. Following a preliminary analysis carried out in collaboration with the Emilia Romagna Region, the San Salvatore barrier seems to be a feasible candidate for removal. The project will then pay particular attention to this infrastructure.

The short-term output of the project will be the catchment action plan, which will lead to removing at least one barrier in the medium term and removing other barriers in the Po catchment in the long term.

Conclusion

The Trebbia River (and Perino River) barrier identification and prioritisation project for the removal of barriers is the first to be carried out in Italy and, therefore, assumes the value of a forerunner project for further study projects in Italy. It has made it possible to test some useful methodologies for future barrier identification projects, and it has demonstrated to the public that removing barriers is necessary and possible.

The project made it possible to analyse and describe all the barriers in the Trebbia River and its tributary Perino and identify the priority ones for their removal. The project carried out an in-depth study of the San Salvatore barrier, demonstrating the feasibility of its removal from a geomorphological and hydraulic point of view.

Brochure Trebbia

Partners

WWF Italy