With the Regulation of the Minister of the Environment, a total of three million euros from the European Union Cohesion Fund will be allocated in order to ensure the migration conditions for salmon, brown trout, grayling, and sea trout upstream and downstream on dams.
“Dams are a major problem in Estonian watercourses, since they fragment the watercourse as a fish habitat. Additionally, dams prevent the migration of highly migratory fish to spawning and living sites,” Water Department Project Bureau Adviser of the Ministry of the Environment Peep Siim said.
The watercourses requiring special protection and mentioned in Regulation No. 73 of 2004 of the Minister of the Environment “List of spawning and living sites of salmon, brown trout, sea trout, and grayling” still have 40 dams that are unpassable for fish. According to the Water Act, the owners of the dams built on such river stretches shall be obliged to ensure the conditions for fish migration.
According to the new regulation, the owners of the dams that are located on the mentioned rivers or other watercourses can apply for support through the Environmental Investment Centre in order to establish fish passes. A total of two to three open application rounds will be carried out and the Environmental Investment Centre will announce the first one in the coming weeks. The amount of aid is up to 85 % of project costs. Besides the allocation from the Cohesion Fund, it is also possible to apply for support from the environmental programme of the Environmental Investment Centre with regard to dams that are not used in economic activities. In this way, it is possible to finance the establishment of the fish pass up to the extent of 100 % from the public funds. “In particular, this is very important for natural person dam owners, since the construction of fish passes is rather expensive,” Siim added.
The purpose of the aid is to improve the condition of protected fish species and their habitats. The measure contributes to the protection of highly migratory species inhabiting the coastal waters and increases fish population.
By the end of this year, already 20 million euros of EU Structural Funds will have been allocated, ensuring that 90 dams will be equipped with a fish pass. Through the new regulation, the Ministry of the Environment supports the construction of fish passes on at least 12 dams.