The european context
When dams becom old
France : pilote experience
The demolition of the Fatou Dam, River "La Beaume",
tributary of the Loire, Haute Loire, 6 m
- 2006 : Lessons
learned from dam removal experiences in France (EDF), pdf, 885
: The demolition of the Blois Dam (Middle Loire River) 2.5
2003 : The demolition of the Brives Charensac (Upper Loire basin)
- 1998 : The demolition of the Maison rouge Dam
(Vienne River, Loire River basin ) 4 m, + Video
- 1998 : The demolition of St. Etienne de Vigan dam
(Allier River, Loire River Basin) 12 m, +Video
- 1996 : The demolition of the Kemansquillec dam on
the Léguer river (Côte d'Armor) 1996 15 m
The legal and regulatory framework
- Reversibility of layout and management plans
So far, around 300 dams (mainly small ones) have gone away (2008)
- 2014 : The dismanteling
of the 23 m hight Robledo dam ( out of work since 1990) by the
"Confederación del Tajo"
: two good viédeso about dam destructions in the last years
in Spain :
- Free the Rivers
: Proposals by the WWF : -
Liberando ríos - Propuestas de WWF para el
desmantelamiento de presas en España, Avril 2009 http://assets.wwf.es/downloads/presas_informe_completo.pdf
The campaign Video
- Dam Removal
on a Roll in Spain, 2008 : http://internationalrivers.org/en/node/3645
(short): the demolition of the Dam " Presa del Tranco",
Río Manzanares - Madrid 2008, YouTube
- Interview with
Pedro Brufao, Rios con Vida (Spain) http://internationalrivers.org/en/the-way-forward/river-revival/interview-with-pedro-brufao-rios-con-vida-spain
Taking a Second Look: Communities and Dam Removal
Dam Removal: A Big Change for Small Communities
Elk Creek Dam: Le début de la démolition , Video (
Army Corps of Engeneers), Youtube, 2008, Southern Oregon, USA
de la démolition du "Gold Hill Dam", Rogue River,
USA, 2008, YouTube
Milltown Dam Removal , Clark Fork Rivers, near Missoula Montana,
USA 2008, YouTube
time-lapse video of the breach of the Marmot Dam, on the Sandy
River in Oregon.USA, 2007,YouTube
Marmot Dam removal - final version,Sandy River,USA, 2007,YouTube
- Horse Creek
Dam Explosion, (Sisquoc Creek/Sanata Maria River), Los Padres
National Forest,California, USA,2006 YouTube
Run Dam Removal,close to Pittsburgh,Pennsylvanie,USA,2008 ?,
pilot experiences and the european context
Roberto Epple, Founder President of ERN European Rivers Network, Nov.
On the European
continent, as everywhere in the world, dam building has been very
common for centuries and millenniums. It used to be small dams built
with basic means. They were used for irrigation and less often for
navigation or wood transportation.
revolution, development of fluvial transport and agricultural improvements,
needs became more and more important. At the same time, building technology
has improved and the size of dams progressively grew
Many medium size
dams in Europe that have been built from the beginning of the century
to the end of World War II are now reaching the end of their lifetime.
Most of these dams are located in mountainous areas and especially
in the Alps (Switzerland, Italy, France, Austria) and in Norway. They
are 3 to 25 meters high or more and were built for electricity or,
less often, for water - supply.
After WWII, dam
projects were more and more important and were located both in mountainous
areas and on lower parts of rivers (and even sometimes on estuaries).
In most European
countries (with the exception of some Eastern countries, and the ex-Soviet
Union) almost every dam is under a concession which lasts from 40
to 60 years. This period is usually smaller than the physical lifetime
of the building.
granted by the state, are defining, depending on the state :
aim of the structure (type of production),
methods of exploitation,
of the equipment, powerhouse and dam during and after the end
of the concession
has to be done if the concession stops (renaturalisation, renewal
of the concession etc.)
time to time, who has to pay the renaturalisation.
have other types of concessions:
Criteria can be: size, power capacity, height or length of the dam,
reservoir volume , private or public ownership….
dams smaller than approx. 5 m and especially in the case of very old
dams, concessions are often incomplete or inexistant
When Dams become old
In western and
northern Europe an estimated minimum of ten thousands
or more dams higher then approx. 3 m are about to ask for a renewal
of their concession during the next 10 - 20 years. The figures for
eastern and southern Europe are unknown yet.
There will therefore
be, from 2010 on, another important number of big dams built from
the 50ies to the late 80ies whose concession will draw to a close.
Those were built
in high mountains as well as on lower parts of most of all European
rivers (for navigation, electricity, irrigation, flood protection,
One has to deal
today with small to medium size dams (even though according to international
criteria all dams higher than 15 meters are considered as " large
Since most of
the concessions are drawing to a close only now, European experience
in handling this problem is rather limited
are different scenarios for dams that already have or soon will reach
the end of their concession :
A) The dam is reaching the end of its concession but is still
technically viable and does not have – officially - any major negative
effect on the ecosystems.
This is the most frequent case. It concerns mainly very small dams
(less than 5 m high).
almost every country, the procedure is the same. The concession
is renewed for a some years (10 to 25 years) and adaptation to standards
is demanded. In many cases, river protecting NGOs are not participating
to the process because, most of the time, they are simply not informed.
Renewal of concessions, which is what happen most often, is explained
by the fact that the location of these dams in steep valleys usually
allows further profitable operation. In many cases, some elements
of the mobile equipment are modernised without engendering a request
for a new concession. This practice is ambiguous and the distinction
between equipment modernisation and real structural modification
of the building is not clear.
type of case is going to concern large dams so that this problem
can become essential in the next few yaers.
A dam is reaching the end of its concession as well as the end of
its physical life. Apart from ecological problems, security ones
case has never appeared, for large dams at least. But this case
will appear more and more often in the future. As a modernisation
could be impossible or very expensive, it is very likely that the
building would be demolished, which can be very interesting on an
economical and ecological point of view.
some of these upcoming cases, there are already studies made to
build a new dam upstream and flood the older one. This is only one
of the solutions, and other studies should be made and evaluation
methods should be elaborated.
A dam is reaching the end of its concession or of its physical life
and is posing a major environmental problem.
most of the cases are a combination of those different scenarios.
In most cases, it is an eutrophication or/and a major pollution
of that water in the reservoir ( toxic mud, etc).
This kind of situation is going to appear very soon for medium size
dams and later for very large dams on the lower part of rivers,
(like on the Volga, where very serious security problems will emerge).
No solution have been found for those cases, which is very worrying
for the future.
A dam reaching the end of its concession is identified as an obstacle
to fish migration and other species.
This is a more and more frequent case due to numerous programs for
salmon – and other migratory species – reintroduction.
cases, it is very expensive or inefficient to equip the dam with
fish ladders, fish elevator or other means. A destruction of the
building can then be the more adequate solution and the most economically
and ecologically interesting. It is in France that this scenario
has already been realized (see below).
The important thing is, that the physical destruction of the building
is more and more appearing as an acceptable solution.
is a very important step since most people considered dams to be unchangeable
part of the articel includes the note by Alexis Delaunay of the French
Ministery for Environment ("Dam
Decommissioning in France" October
French watercourses have been developed for centuries in order
to cover man's
needs particularly for energy, navigation, and agriculture.
on riverine ecosystems have often resulted.
of all, all big French rivers flow to the Atlantic Ocean (except the
Rhône river). This means that they are all rivers for migratory fishes.
A French law passed a few years ago makes compulsory that all obstacles
preventing the migration on those rivers have to be either destroyed
or equipped with fish ladders before April 2000.
dams are not only impediments to the migration of biological organisms.
They also modify the morphodynamic and hydraulic features of the rivers
by slowing down the stream, warming the water and taking up silt and
nutrients. It was realised that dams were responsible for many flooding
problems, a degradation of ecosystems and of water quality.
This new awareness leads to the creation of a strong popular movement
supported by the NGOs in favour of living rivers. At the end of the
1980ies, a big program of dam building on the Loire basin appeared
and engendered one of the most important environment struggle in France
which was led by the Loire Vivante network. In 1994, after ten years
of fighting, the "Plan Loire Grandeur Nature" was created. This new
state program reflected a deep change in the conception of river management
: among many other things, instead of building three new big dams
on the Loire river three older dams where destroyed (2 on the Loire
river and one the Léguer river).
three dams, 6 to 15 m high, and built on rivers with migratory fishes,
have been removed recently so as to restore the ecological quality
of these watercourses : the dams are those of "Kernansquillec" on
the Léguer river (Côte d'Armor), "St-Etienne du Vigan" on the Allier
river (Haute-Loire) and "Maisons-Rouges" on the Vienne river (Indre-et-Loire).
The two latter dams were hindrances to the migration of the last European
Atlantic Salmons. (Salmo salar)
The legal and regulatory
October 16, 1919 Act on the use of hydroelectric power foresaw that
the concessions or authorisations to use the hydroelectric power are
granted for a limited time and cannot in any way exceed seventy-five
years. They may be renewed, but the renewal involves finding a balance
between the socio-economical advantages linked to maintaining the
dam (energy, multi-use working, drinking-water supply, tourism, etc...)
and the drawbacks for the environment. According to the positive or
negative balance, the decision is taken by the administrative authority
either to renew the authorisation or the concession or on the contrary
to terminate it and request the restoration of the site and river.
concessions include constructions over 4500 kW (public-service concessions
in French law) : at the end of the concession agreement, the infrastructure
returns to the French State, which will decide either to renew the
title or to dedicate the dams to other uses or even, if necessary,
to remove them (at the State's expenses).
regards the authorisations of smaller works (with a power less than
4500 kW), these works always remain under the petitioner's ownership
when the authorisation comes to its term. If the authorisation is
not renewed, the October 16, 1919 Act, (Article 16, § 6) compels the
owner to restore the free flow of the river at his own expenses.
The three previously authorised dams in question had been maintained
for a period of 75 years, i.e. up to October 16, 1994. Among more
than a hundred concession or authorisation works projects for renewal,
the State rejected these three. They were subsequently demolished
as the dams had no longer real economical interest and because of
their impact on the environment it did not seem justified to keep
them any longer.
layout and management plans
fixed period of the licence with the obligation to restore the site
back to its prior state allows the authorities to implement the reversibility
principle of development projects, if the drawbacks of the work have
been underestimated, comparing them with their advantages.
reversibility principle has thus been implemented in France, namely
within the Natural Loire River Plan, which was adopted by the French
Government on January 3rd, 1994. This whole Loire River Plan aims
at the protection of the people and the prevention of floods, while
preserving the habitat and the water environment, in particular the
" wild " aspect of the Loire and its tributaries. In this objective
one of the major steps has been the conservation of the migratory
fishes, among which the great Loire salmon, the only one of its species
still able to run up a big river in Europe, i.e. 800 km/(500 miles)
between the estuary and the spawning sites.
the Government decided that the old dams of St Etienne du Vigan on
the Allier tributary river and Maisons-Rouges on the Vienne tributary
river whose ecological impacts were no longer compensated by an economical
interest would be removed (see below). The Government also accepted
the principle that a certain number of other projects should be carried
out, after their usefulness was verified and inasmuch as their environmental
impact was minimised by the adequate corrective and compensating actions.
The whole government plan aims at the sustainable development of the
insofar as the public service concession system is concerned, this
reversibility principle could be improved, as the licensee draws most
financial benefits from the concession contract, while the costs of
restoration are covered by the State.
Kemansquillec on the Léguer river (Côte
multi-vaulted concrete dam, roughly 15 m high, was built over the
Léguer river in 1920 as a concession in order to supply energy to
a paper plant. The 400,000 m³ storage, located downstream from agricultural
areas, experienced extensive eutrophication and significant silting
of about 50%. The storage draw-down operation that was carried out
during the last safety check, which is compulsory every ten years
in France except in special cases, was catastrophic for the water
fauna which was buried under the released silt. As the authorisation
procedure following the expiry of the licence was being considered,
the administrative authority informed the outgoing concessionary of
the conditions under which the new licence would be granted : particularly,
by increasing the capacity of the overflow works and removing the
silt from the reservoir. The outgoing concessionary referred to give
up his renewal request : the infrastructure was thus transferred back
to the State by the end of the concession on December the 31st , 1993.
During the January, 1995 flood, seven houses had to be evacuated downstream
upon the experts' recommendations, because of the insufficient capacity
of the overflow works, as the water was about to overflow the dam.
addition, the dam prevented the passing of salmon and other migratory
fishes. Considering its limited interest, its age and its potential
dangers for public safety and the environment, the State decided to
demolish the dam.
Contracting of Works
contracting works were carried out by the State (Ministry of Industry).
The cost of FF 6.1 million was supported by the State with the help
of the Loire-Brittany Water Agency.
main difficulties concerning the reservoir draw-off operation and
the precautions needed due to the strong siltation of the storage
and the presence of fish-breeding areas and drinking water catchments
downstream. The dam storage draw-down, authorised by a regulation
of the Prefect dated 16th April, 1996, was done following the flushing
of 95,000 m³ of mud along the axis of the stream bed, while the muds
were treated in settling lagoons so as to protect the river downstream.
demolishing licence was granted by the Prefect on 17th September,
1996. The demolition of the dam was completed in 1996 without any
particular problems. A rehabilitation and development operation for
the whole valley, including rehabilitation of industrial areas near
the dam, is now to be undertaken by the Léguer river protection association.
technical components of the operation have been followed up by
the Direction departementale de l'agriculture et de la forêt
d'Armor (the Agriculture and Forest Directorate of the Côtes
Direction departementale de l'agriculture et de la forêt M Marc
BONENFANT rue du Parc Boîte Postale 2256 F - 22022 SAINT-BRIEUC
(France) Telephone : 02 96 62 47 00 Fax : 02 96 33 29 05
A 16 mn videotape on the removal and its object, carried
out by the
association « Eaux et Rivières de Bretagne » (Brittany's
Waters and Rivers)
is available for FF 60.-(+ shipping expenses) from :
Centre d'initiation à la rivière (River-discovery centre)
LEFEBVRE rue Castel Mond 22810 BELLE ISLE EN TERRE
Téléphone : 02 96
43 08 39 Fax : 02 96 43 07 29
Conseil Supérieur de la Pêche (Bretagne), 84, rue de Rennes,
35510 CESSON SEVIGNE
Eaux et Rivières de Bretagne 12, rue Lanveur 56100 LORIENT
Fédération de Pêche des Côtes d'Armor, Le Guévon, 22230 ST-VRAN
Saint-Etienne du Vigan on the Allier river (Haute-Loire)
construction of a dam in the village of Saint-Etienne du Vigan was
authorised in 1895 to supply electricity to the town of Langogne (Lozère).Being
approximately 12 m high and having no special fish pass for migratory
fishes, the dam had sterilised the excellent Upper-Allier salmon spawning
sites. At the time of construction, strong protests were uttered,
in vain, by the rural people for whom the fishing supplied a considerable
Photo:ERN European Rivers Network Roberto Epple / SOS Loire Vivante
Dam when it collapse (June 24, 1998, St. Etienne de Vigan, France)
The town of Langogne
rebuilt the dam in concrete a few metres downstream from the first
1895 dam which had become partially ruined. Electricité de France
(EDF) became the owner of this dam in 1950.
the implementation of the " Plan " Loire Grandeur Nature " (the Natural
Loire River Plan) which was adopted on January 3rd, 1994 by the French
Government (see § here above), the Prefect did not renew the authorisation
for this dam when it expired on October 16th, 1994. The French Government
requested EDF to remove the dam at their own expense in order to restore
the free running flow, in conformity with the 1919 law.
information on the deconstruction (with photos)
Contracting of works
demolition operation was led under EDF's contracting responsibility.
The cost of about FF 7 million was covered mainly by EDF, helped by
a contribution from the Loire-Brittany Water Agency.
start of the demolition was delayed until a small flood occurred so
as to reduce the risks of pollution during the storage draw-down operation.
The removal was performed with explosives on June 24th, 1998.
sediments at the bottom of the reservoir were of a very good quality
(sands and gravel) and no pollution could be seen. The site has rapidly
returned to a near-natural state and five spawning sites were found
in the winter 1998-99 upstream of the former dam location.
and video pictures were taken. An introduction document
and a 6 mn video film was made by EDF on the dam's removal.
EDF (M.MURA) 5, rue des Cuirassiers F-69402 LYON Cedex 03
(France) Telephone : 04 78 71 44 77 Fax : 04 78 71 35 97 To obtain
the Vidéo, contact :
Loire Vivante, soslv arobase rivernet.org +33 4 71 05 57 88
ERN European Rivers Network, +33 4 71 02 08 14
Francis MONOD (Video Prod.) Beaufort sur Doron 73270 LE PRAZ Tél/fax
de l'Equipement de la Haute-Loire (Urban
Planning, Housing and Transport Directorate of the Haute-Loire
Department) : 13, rue Moulins F - 43000 LE PUY EN VELAY
(France) Telephone : 04 71 05 84 05 Fax : 04 71 05 84 55
ERN / SOS LOIRE
VIVANTE 8, rue Crozatier 43000 LE PUY EN
VELAY internet site : http://www.rivernet.org/stvig_f.htm
¨ Modalités techniques de suppression de l'ouvrage, SOMIVAL,
¨ Rapport de synthèse des études préalable,
Agence de l'Eau Loire-Bretagne, novembre 1995.
¨ Dossier d'archives, Ministère de l'Environnement, décembre
Maisons-Rouges on the Vienne river (Indre-et-Loire
in 1922 as a hydropower concession, about 800 m downstream from the
confluence of the Vienne and Creuse rivers, the Maisons-Rouges dam
maintains a level difference of about 4 m (downstream of a basin area
of about 20,000 km2). Built initially to supply a paper factory, it
was integrated into EDF's assets in 1950. As this dam is the nearest
obstacle to the sea, at the confluence of major rivers, its particular
situation created a substantial impact on numerous species of migratory
fishes. Particularly the salmon, already suffering from reduced access
to a part of the spawning grounds, had disappeared. The shads have
found shelter in remaining spawning sites downstream of the dam with
problems of hybridisation between two species of shads (or aloses)
: between the allice shad (alosa) and the twaite shad (alosa fallax/alosa
European Rivers Network, Roberto Epple
Maison rouges dam (october 1998)
more information and photos
different fish-passes had a very low efficiency and the various salmon
reintroduction plans undertaken on the Gartempe river (which is one
of the Vienne river's tributaries) had no significant result.
According to the " Loire Grandeur Nature " (Natural Loire river plan)
which was adopted on January 4, 1994, the Government decided that
the dam's licence would not be renewed at its expiration date of 31st
December, 1994 and that the State, becoming the site's owner at the
termination of the concession, should undertake the removal of the
work, due to the importance of the impacts which could not be balanced
by any sufficient economical interest.
Contracting of Works
contracting responsibility was the State's (Ministry for the Environment
and territorial planning). The demolition was led by the Indre-et-Loire
department of Transport, Urban Planning and Construction Directorate
and the actual works were under the responsibility of EDF.
cost of the operation was about FF 14 million, mainly financed by
the Ministry for the Environment and Territorial planning with the
participation of the Loire-Brittany Water Agency.
main difficulty was due to local opposition as several rural villages
would suffer important local tax losses after the dam's removal. In
consequence a complementary plan of economic assistance was set up,
at the same level of financial importance as the dam removal cost.
Important financial assistance was granted by the State, the water
agency, EDF and the Regional/Provincial authorities to support local
removal operation was carried out in the summer of 1998, after the
technical difficulties had been resolved by the contracting authority.
Once half of the site was isolated by cofferdams able to maintain
the required water storage for the irrigation of cultivated land,
the removal operation essentially consisted in cutting the three sheetpile
curtains with an oxyacetylene cutting flame and pulling down with
a mechanical excavator the embankment between these sheetpiles. A
drowned sill was made up at the bottom of the river bed, so as to
avoid erosion that was foreseeable because of historically extensive
sand extraction in the bed of the Vienne and Loire rivers. This also
helped to slow down the migration of the sediments found upstream
The sediments consisted of sand and did not raise any problems of
quality. Many agricultural pumps which used the reservoir water were
restored by the State (this cost being included in the total operation
cost). However, a camping site near the confluence about 800 m upstream
the dam, did suffer a ground slide and one of the houses shows a few
cracks, probably due to a change in the flow of the ground waters
resulting from a lowering of the storage water level by 4 m.
shads derived a very rapid benefit from the removal of the dam : 433
shads were caught in the river Vienne in Châtellerault, about 20 km
upstream of Maisons-Rouges (i.e. 91 from the fish pass and 342 from
a fish removal operation ; 156 fish were released upstream of the
dam) ; and 15 on the Creuse river downstream of Descartes, about 12
km upstream from Maisons-Rouges.
Active spawning sites were observed on the Vienne river in Châtellerault
and on the Creuse river l'Ilette. Lampreys were observed on the Vienne
river down-stream of the Châtellerault dam, and consequently a new
population of lampreys recolonised the Creuse river up to Saint-Gaultier,
the Gartempe river up to Saulgé and the Anglin up to Cancrenier. The
presence in July, 1999 of a living salmon, 88 cm long and weighing
4,8 kg, in the Gartempe river at Châteauponsac in the Haute-Vienne
department is a very optimistic sign.
No living salmon had been observed so far upstream since the 1920s,
when the Maisons-Rouges dam was built. The symbolic return of the
salmon, after that of the shads and lampreys which was observed last
winter, confirms the positive effects of the removal of the Maisons-Rouges
dam on migratory fishes.
The Chinon University is monitoring this experiment. The first results
show that the river bed is dynamically coming back to its initial
state. (1 US $ = 6 FF)
8 mm videotape and a photographic brochure of the removal are
being published :
planning, construction and transport departmental directorate of
Direction departementale de l'equipement d'Indre-et-Loire)
- CARO 61, avenue de Grammont 37041 TOURS Cédex Téléphone
: 02 47 70 80
23 Fax : 02 47 70 80 29
ADESVV - (Melle
Nina DIEU) (association near Chinon University) 11,
quai danton 37500 CHINON Tél : 02 47 93 48 57 Fax : 02 47 93
EPALA 3, av. Claude
Guillemin 45100 ORLEANS
de la Pêche Délégation Régionale Centre - Pays de Loire - Poitou Charentes
112 rue du Faubourg Cueille Mirebalaise 86000 POITIERS Tèl : 05.49.41.29.88
Poissons migrateurs sur le bassin de la Vienne, Perspectives de développement
après effacement du barrage de Maisons Rouges, JF LUQUET, octobre
Le franchissement du barrage de Maisons Rouges sur la Vienne par les
poissons migrateurs, rapport d'expertise, M. LARINIER et F.TRAVADE,
La suppression totale du barrage de Maisons Rouges au Bec-des-Deux-Eaux
sur la Vienne : une nécessité pour l'avenir des migrateurs
et de la socio-économie des pêches, Dr P. BOISNEAU de
l'Association agrée interdépartementale des pêcheurs
professionnels du bassin de la Loire et des cours d'eau bretons, mai
Expertise du génie civil du barrage de Maisons Rouges, bureau
d'étude ISL pour la DDE Indre et Loire, octobre 1996.
Compte rendu de la réunion qui s'était tenue le 21 novembre
1996 à la préfecture d'Indre et Loire, sur l'avenir
du barrage de Maisons Rouges.
" Résumé non technique ", partie IV de l'étude
effectuée par SEPIA Conseils, décembre 1997.
Restauration des Poissons Migrateurs du Bassin de la Vienne : Objectifs
et Investissement, Conseil Supérieur de la Pêche (Cellule
Plan Loire), novembre 1996.
de faisablité et de programmation pour un projet de développement
local : Pôle d'Animation sur la Vallée de la Vienne et
les Poissons Migrateurs sur la commune de Ports-sur-Vienne, demandée
par la Préfecture d'Indre-et-Loire, avril 1999.
Abondance de la Grande Alose dans la Loire, bilan de différentes
Revue de presse.
Effacement du barrage de maisons Rouges, synthèse de O. CLERICY
et P. BERTEAUD, 1994.
Etudes des modalités et des implications de l'effacement du
barrage de Maisons Rouges, SEPIA-CONSEIL, 1994.
Etudes des conséquences socio-economiques de l'effacement du
barrage de Maisons Rouges, Groupe Cohérences, 1994.
videotape and a photographic brochure of the removal are being published.