The Ministry of the Environment and the owner of the Sindi dam, Raju AS, concluded an agreement on selling the dam facilities to the Government in order to restore virtually destroyed salmon population in the Pärnu River. This would double salmon abundance in Estonia.
“We are planning to make the Pärnu drainage system suitable habitat for the fish again, but so far, the Sindi dam has been a major obstacle in doing so. This problem has long been waiting for a solution and fortunately, we can now begin with the real work soon after constructive and effective negotiations with Raju AS have been held. If fact, we have already inhabited salmon in the Pärnu River and hopefully they will be able to return to their birthplace when time is ripe,” Minister of the Environment Mati Raidma commented.
After the Government’s acquisition of the dam, the Ministry of the Environment will start consultations with all concerned parties in order to find the best solutions in making the dam passable for fish. Solutions that have been approved with the environmental impact assessment are currently under consideration. One of the solutions would be the establishment of a rapid, which contributes to the partial decline in the dam level and another solution would be the establishment of a fish ramp with a flat fish pass as close to nature as possible.
The Pärnu River has the greatest potential for salmon habitat, however, currently only 1% of all habitats found in the river are available for the fish. Once the dam is passable, nearly a 100 kilometre-long river track would be opened for the fish instead of current 14 kilometre-long track, and all tributaries of the Pärnu River as well.
Scientists estimate that the actual reproduction potential of salmon in the Pärnu River is approximately 45,000–58,000 young fish a year, however, currently less than 100 fish return to the sea from the river in most years. Nevertheless, the Pärnu drainage system is capable of producing almost the same amount of salmon as the rest of the salmon rivers in Estonia altogether.
In addition to salmon, the opening of the dam also improves the habitats of such species of nature conservation as the river lamprey, the thick shelled river mussel and the European bullhead, but also industrially important fish like the European smelt, the brown trout, the vimba and the European whitefish.
Making the Sindi dam passable for the fish is only one part of the project of restoring the habitats of the Pärnu drainage system, financed by the Cohesion Fund.