Over Europe, more and more countries are realizing obstacle removal is an efficient tool for river restoration. In 2022 Latvia reported its first dam removal (which was, in fact, a dam breach). However, Latvia has been working on these free-flowing rivers for quite a long time already (since the 80s). Isabelle Alten, from our team, has spent a few months there, cooperating to enable several dam removals and also finding out all the progress in the country. Get to know all about her experience told by herself.
Figure 1. Isabelle Alten in conversation with one of owners Staicele paperfactory property and dam
The cooperation started after I (Isabelle Alten, Master student Hydrology WUR, The Netherlands), saw the movie Dambusters and wanted to help in my way with this obstacle removal movement. There was already a movement going on in Latvia, and I took action on many points to keep that process running. My most important project was the establishment of a feasibility study for two dams, which would bring back many free-flowing kilometres and connect the waters with the sea.
I have worked on feasibility studies for the dam of the Staicele paper factory and the Lube watermill dam as a cooperation of Dam Removal Europe, the World Fish Migration Foundation and BIOR Institute, Latvia. This Staicele paper factory has been under attention for over 20 years, and even made its way into the government. Together with the current owners, and with the help of several professionals from the DRE network, new strategies and plans were made and communicated with local and global government and nature-related organizations and institutes. The process is now ready to be continued.
Figure 2. Vision of new and broad project of both river restoration and regional development
During my time there, I have been contacting over 20 different organizations, all contributing in a way to free-flowing rivers. Recently, a national working group has been constructed, to see how to deal with the fragmented rivers. It was amazing to see how many people are involved in a way in the whole process and hope they will keep communicating well to enable free flowing rivers for many amazing fish species in the beautiful rivers of Latvia.
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